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With some of the media obsessed with Tory Brexit squabbles and other parts seemingly only interested in smearing Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, it would be easy to forget that building on our popular manifesto last year, Labour has a range of policies that can rebuild and transform Britain in the interests of the overwhelming majority of people.
But, as the TUC meets this week, it could not be more important to restate how much is at stake in terms of working people’s rights in terms of our fight for a Corbyn-led Labour government.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, with John McDonnell as his shadow chancellor, Labour has become not only a clearly anti-austerity party but also a party with a radical and determined vision to improve the rights of people in work and their trade unions. Again, Labour is embracing trade unions as vital parts not only of our party but of a fairer society, and many of our policies are those that trade unions have been advocating for years.
As part of this agenda for a better Britain, we already have a 20-point plan to transform the workplace announced during the 2017 general election campaign, and also now have the ideas and concrete implementation proposals in the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law and follow up Rolling out the Manifesto for Labour Law reports.
The latter was launched at the TUC this week and Rebecca Long Bailey has said its recommendations “will help us to deliver better wages, better quality jobs, better education and training, and a stronger, more productive economy that benefits us all.”
Such a radical programme to end the rigged economy in the workplace could not be more needed as we see a worrying trend of low pay and insecurity mushrooming in Tory Britain.
The real situation facing the British economy and working people is very different to that of the Tory spin and is often barely reflected in an increasingly servile mainstream media.
Indeed, whilst the Tories promised to make work pay, more children in working families are reliant on foodbanks than ever before and the total number of children in poverty soared by 100,000 last year to 4.1 million.
Six million people earn less than the living wage, and wage stagnation has squeezed the living standards of millions.
But it's not just about pay and income levels. Too many people are having their work-life balance undermined by rising workloads.
And this increasing insecurity is also reflected in how 1.8 million people are on zero-hours contracts.
What a disgrace that people do not know what they will earn today, tomorrow or next week.
A lack of rights in the workplace – and of course an accompanying lack of enforcement from an ideologically driven, neoliberal government - are central to these problems, and that is why the work of trade unions and the proposals coming from the IER are so important.
Workers in Britain currently have fewer protections than workers in most of the rest of Europe, and if we are to ensure that Brexit does not lead us into a race to the bottom, we need to lead the way, not only in preserving existing workplace rights and protections but in advancing them.
We know that the Tories simply will not prioritise this, in Brexit negotiations or in future government legislation.
For too long, working people in Britain have seen their rights at work sacrificed at the altar of neoliberal ideology, but it has not delivered the better living standards the Tories have promised.
Things don't need to be this way – a government determined to bring these injustices to an end and rebalance our economy can make the changes needed.
As John McDonnell made clear at the TUC this week, it is only Labour that will strengthen rights at work, taking action to make sure new jobs are good jobs.
Rather than a “bargain basement,” tax-haven Britain as envisaged by the Tories, we will upgrade the economy through investment in good jobs and a strengthening of workers’ rights.
Our pledges to transform the workplace will not only improve rights at work but help build a more equal, fairer and more productive economy – vital in the challenging period ahead.
In terms of improving living standards, we will end the public sector pay gap, raise the minimum wage to the level of the living wage (expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020) to give nearly six million people a pay rise, and double paid paternity leave to four weeks and increase paternity pay.
We will roll out sectoral collective bargaining as the most effective way to improve working people's pays and conditions.
In terms of dignity and security at work, we will give all workers equal rights from day one, ban exploitative zero-hours contracts to improve job security and strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy.
We will repeal the draconian Trade Union Act and a Corbyn-led Labour government will not only extend the rights of working people, but ensure the enforcement of these rights too, including the abolition of employment tribunal fees so that people have access to justice.
Unlike the Tories, we will not shy away from using the government's spending power to drive up standards, including through, awarding public contracts only to companies which recognise trade unions.
As the TUC marks 150 years, Labour will not only change the balance of power in society, it will also do it in the workplace – together, we can end the Tories’ rigged economy and build a new economy, for the many not the few.
Chris Williamson MP is speaking at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity Conference entitled Stand with Corbyn – Unite to End Tory Austerity on Saturday October 27, alongside Diane Abbott MP, Emma Dent Coad MP, Jon Trickett MP, Dan Carden MP and Richard Burgon MP. Register and info at http://bit.ly/standwithcorbyn
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