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Opposition to strengthening workers’ rights likened to ‘doomsday warnings’ over minimum wage

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak slammed the Tory government for using the same “doomsday” arguments against strengthening workers’ rights as they did opposing the minimum wage.

Speaking at a Resolution Foundation event on the 25th anniversary of its introduction, Mr Nowak urged Labour to “resist the out-of-touch, out-of-date siren voices from the ’90s” who opposed the minimum wage and now oppose the party’s New Deal for Workers.

In 1991, then secretary of state for employment Michael Howard claimed that the minimum wage would destroy up to two million jobs. 

A year before it was introduced in 1999, the Confederation of British Industry warned that it could “result in rising prices, business closures and unemployment.”

Mr Nowak pointed out that despite claims of mass unemployment and economic ruin, the minimum wage resulted in no economic meltdown, increasing substantially with no negative impact on jobs.

He said: “History proved all those doomsday warnings emphatically wrong.

“Sometimes we have to face down those who say no to measures that improve the lives of working people.”

Labour’s New Deal for Workers includes a ban on zero-hours contracts, strengthening flexible-working and collective-bargaining rights and introducing disability- and ethnicity-pay-gap reporting.

Mr Nowak said it “will establish a level playing field and stop decent employers from being undercut by the cowboys.  

“Just like the minimum wage, good employers have nothing to fear. 

“But that hasn’t stopped some employers’ organisations warning of an economic apocalypse if Labour’s New Deal became law.  

“The arguments are exactly the same as they were 25 years ago,” he said.

“They claim it will cost jobs, put employers out of business and reduce flexibility.

“They were wrong then, and they are wrong now.”


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