Labour plans biggest ever extension of workers’ rights
The Labour Party has announced plans to strengthen individual and collective workers’ rights, if elected.
Announced at the Trades Union Congress conference, the plans to “put power in the hands of workers” include:
- creating a Ministry for Employment Rights responsible for delivering “the biggest extension of rights for workers that our country has ever seen” to “deliver better wages, greater security and give workers more of a say over how their workplaces are run”;
- introduction of a new Workers’ Protection Agency to enforce rights, standards and protections. The Agency will be given extensive powers to inspect workplaces and bring prosecutions and civil proceedings on workers’ behalf;
- introduction of sectoral collective bargaining by establishing councils of worker and employer representatives that negotiate collective agreements with minimum terms, conditions and standards for the whole of the sector and guarantee a legal minimum on issues including pay, working hours and recruitment and grievance processes;
- simplification and strengthening of trade union law to help trade union recognition and workers exercise their rights. This would include banning anti-union practice and the strengthening of protection of trade union representatives against unfair dismissal;
- fixing the problem of different categories of workers with different rights by creating a single status of “worker” for everyone apart from those who are genuinely self-employed;
- introduction of a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing;
- giving all workers the right to seek flexible working and place a duty on the employer to accommodate the request;
- introduction of a statutory Real Living Wage of £10 per hour by 2020 for all workers aged 16 or over;
- banning unpaid internships and zero hours contracts.
These proposals, if brought into law, would certainly lead to a significant extension of employment rights for individuals and obligations for employers. It will be particularly interesting to see how employers in sectors such as manufacturing and engineering respond to the proposals for sectoral collective bargaining including the introduction of minimum rates of pay, as this would represent a significant shift. This would mean that particular grades of employee would be paid the same throughout their sector, even though they were employed by different private companies. Although common in other European countries, this sort of system was last seen in the UK in the 1980s when Joint Industrial Councils and Wages Councils were closed down. Obviously, however, the Labour Party would need to be elected in order to bring any of these proposals into law.
16 September 2019
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