Labour's weekend gift to workers is a kick in the teeth

Labour’s weekend gift to workers is a kick in the teeth

Labour’s weekend gift to workers is a kick in the teeth, if reports of a watered-down package of rights for employees are to be believed.

Some elements appear still to be included, like raising sick pay, banning fire and rehire, and outlawing contracts that fail to offer workers a minimum number of guaranteed hours.

But the original promise of full rights from the first day in a job will now be subject to probationary periods of an unspecified length, according to documents circulated to trade unions this week (as reported by John Rentoul in the Independent‘s e-newsletter).

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A ban on zero-hours contracts will now apply only to “exploitative” contracts, whatever they are – and who defines them as such?

And it seems collective bargaining, in which unions have the right to negotiate terms across a whole industry, will apply only to social care.

The “right to switch off” – not to be contacted by phone or email outside working hours – will now be by agreement, which raises the question: who has to agree to it – the employer or employee?

And all of the above will now be subject to a consultation with employers, meaning only “draft proposals” will be published in the first 100 days of a Labour government, with the knock-on effect that any changes will be slowed down significantly.

Apparently trade unions are considering the new policy plan to be a “betrayal”.

The Big Issue is reporting that Unite the Union’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, is furious over the U-turns in the plan:

“This new Labour document on the New Deal, issued to the unions on Monday (6 May), is a row back on a row back,” she said. “It is totally unrecognisable from the original proposals produced with the unions. Unrecognisable. Workers will see through this and mark this retreat after retreat as a betrayal.”

“This new document is turning what was a real New Deal for workers into a charter for bad bosses. Labour don’t want a law against fire and rehire and they are effectively ripping up the promise of legislation on a New Deal for workers in its first 100 days,” she said.

“Instead, we have codes of conduct and pledges of consultation with big business. Likewise, the proposal to legislate against zero-hours contracts is watered down to almost nothing.”

“In truth this new document is not worthy of discussion. All unions must now demand that Labour changes course and puts the original New Deal for Workers back on the table.”

The Independent has reported that the Trades Union Congress is saying Labour cannot expect to take members’ votes for granted if the so-called ‘New Deal’ for workers has been betrayed.

TUC President Matt Wrack told the online paper that he and other union leaders are to meet Labour leader Keir Starmer to thrash out their differences on Tuesday (May 14).

He said that at the meeting with Sir Keir to be held on 14 May, trade unions “will compare and contrast” the list of items they previously agreed with those that made it into the document.

Mr Wrack insisted that the repeal of the last two pieces of legislation brought in by the Tories – including the minimum service law restricting the ability to strike, as well as the minimum requirement of 50 per cent turnout – are “the basic requirements” of what he and other union leaders want.

He also noted that Labour had committed in conversations to agreeing on a more modern voting system which will allow for digital voting on industrial action – currently, it is restricted to postal votes.

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