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"The biggest upgrade of workers’ rights in a generation"
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour party, answers questions from Kate Bell, the TUC’s assistant general secretary.
KB: Why do you think the policies in Labour’s New Deal for Working People are so important?
AR: For too many people Britain is just not working. The next Labour government build an economy that works for working people. The fight for fair pay, the fight for good work, the fight to make our economy work for everyone is personal for me. Recent scandals like P&O Ferries show bad employers can get away with undercutting the good. Having promised for years to bring forward an employment bill, the Tories turned their back on vulnerable workers to keep their backbenchers happy.
That’s why Labour’s New Deal for Working People is so important. It would be the biggest upgrade of workers’ rights in a generation. Labour will strengthen the protections afforded to all workers by banning zero-hours contracts, ending fire and rehire, and removing qualifying periods for basic rights, and more.
It’s a comprehensive package of measures that will start to address the imbalance of power in Britain’s workplaces. And it’s a statement of intent on social justice – it shows whose side we are on. More security for every worker in our country and a stronger foundation for working people to aspire and get on.
KB: What else will Labour do to make sure trade unions can properly represent their members?
AR: For far too long, unions have had barriers put in the way of their work representing members. It’s damaged industrial relations and worsened disputes. Restrictions on trade union activities are preventing fair bargaining and holding back living standards.
Labour is committed to repealing anti-union legislation which has removed workers’ rights. Within 100 days we’ll repeal both the Trade Union Act 2016 and the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023. We’ll change the law so it is fit for a modern economy – with electronic balloting, including in workplaces, sufficient facility time and access for unions to represent members.
KB: Can you tell us a bit more about how these proposals will strengthen collective bargaining across the economy?
AR: Strong collective bargaining rights and institutions at all levels are key to tackling the problems of insecurity, inequality, discrimination, enforcement and low pay. Evidence from around the world shows collective bargaining drives up pay and living standards whilst reducing inequality. It ensures workers share in economic growth and allows workplaces and sectors to adapt better to new technologies and trends.
The best way to improve the lot of working people is collectively. So, the next Labour government will start by bring together representatives of workers and employers across social care to agree a Fair Pay Agreement and a New Deal for Adult Social Care Workers.
Just think how this would work in a sector where half a million workers are paid less than £10 an hour. Where people must work multiple jobs and still struggle to provide for their family. With our Fair Pay Agreement, social care employers and unions will have to get around the table and negotiate. And the deal they strike will set the floor for every adult social care employer in the country. That’s how you make work pay fairly and improve conditions.
KB: Lots of the proposals in the New Deal for Working People will need legislation. If you get into government, how will you go about changing the law?
AR: Easy – we’ll bring forward a new employment rights bill within the first 100 days of a Labour government.
KB: The TUC recently revealed that Black men are more than twice as likely to be stuck in insecure work as white men. How would Labour go about fighting structural racism in the labour market?
AR: The inequalities that led to the to the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 must mark a turning point. Labour will bring in a Race Equality Act to tackle the structural racism that scars our society and leaves Black, Asian and minority ethnic people worse off. And we’ll make ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory.
KB: One of the key lessons from the pandemic is that the UK’s sick pay system was totally unfit for purpose. What are your plans for statutory sick pay?
AR: The UK has the lowest level of statutory sick pay in the OECD. The next Labour government will strengthen and increase statutory sick pay, make it available all workers by removing the lower earnings limit which cuts out those on low wages, and removing the waiting period which currently means workers can only access it from day four of sickness.
KB: How does the New Deal for Working People contribute to Labour’s plan for economic growth?
AR: Boosting people’s income and making work more secure isn’t just right for workers, it’s right for our economy too. Strengthening workers’ rights, tackling insecure work and improving wellbeing in the workplace will boost productivity. Strong workplace rights are also key to creating the right conditions for business innovation and sustained economic growth for everyone. That’s because a healthy, happy and motivated workforce is good for the bottom line.
Our New Deal for Working People is central to how Labour will achieve the highest economic growth in the G7, raise living standards and create good jobs across the UK.
KB: The New Deal for Working People is one of the most exciting bits of Labour’s policy agenda. How are you going to go out and sell it to people?
AR: Labour is proud to be the party of and for working people - the clue is in the name. I’m proud that we developed the New Deal together with affiliated unions.
We know that these policies will resonate in workplaces and on the doorstep. It’s a vote- winner. Let’s spread the word and push rights at work up the political agenda.
KB: You famously came into politics through your trade union. What advice would you give to a young trade unionist fighting for their members nowadays?
AR: I was born in Stockport, but I was raised in the union movement. I will always stand up for trade union values – it's in my bones. It was thanks to my union, UNISON, that I got the confidence to dream bigger, and the tools to get there.
When Labour is in government there will be a former social care worker and shop steward in the office of deputy prime minister. Working people will have a seat at the cabinet table and their voices will be heard.
I think my experience brings its own expertise. I’m living proof you can do it, so my advice is to keep going, believe in yourself and what you can do. Prove the doubters wrong!
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