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A Trade Union Agenda for Labour

7th September 2014

A Trade Union Agenda for Labour

John McDonnell MP

Articles from the LRC TUC 2014 special

It’s no mystery why all the economic indicators point to the economy emerging from the recession and yet wages are continuing to fall behind inflation. The post-recession economy that is being created is based upon reinforcing the distribution of power between capital and labour that has been imposed upon our society since the 1980s.

Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws were intended to ensure that the income generated within our economy poured into the hands of shareholders and company executives while workers’ wages stagnated. The undermining of the ability of trade unions to negotiate effectively on behalf of their members has meant that for three decades the proportion of wealth generated within our economy has grown dramatically for capital but declined for labour.
The return of a Labour Government provides the opportunity to redress this latest history of exploitation. If the next Labour Government is to stand any chance of tackling the grotesque inequalities of present day Britain, it needs a trade union agenda.

This is a simple trade union plan for Labour.

1. A Living Wage not a Minimum Wage. The present level of the minimum wage is in reality a poverty wage. Labour should replace the minimum wage with a Living Wage, set at £10 an hour.

2. A Maximum Pay Ratio to Tackle Inequality. Top company executives are paid over 160 times the level of the average pay of their employees. Labour should introduce a statutory pay ratio so that the pay of the highest earner in a company is no more than 20 times the average pay of the company’s employees.

3. Annual Equality Audits. Women’s pay still lags behind men’s despite 30 years of equality laws. Annual equality audits should be a requirement for companies and public sector employers.

4. Outlawing Zero Hours Contracts. The vast expansion of zero hours’ contracts has introduced a modern day form of the 19th century practice of the workers standing in line to be picked for work by employers. Labour should outlaw this demeaning form of exploitation.

5. Restoring Rights at Work. Exercising the basic right to strike has been undermined by government interference in trade union decision-making procedures. Labour should legislate to enable trade unionists to ballot online and at the workplace. Labour’s past promise to restore the right to strike to the POA should be implemented.

6. Free Access to Justice at Work. Charges to access employment tribunals should be scrapped and cuts in legal aid reversed.

7. Making Blacklisting a Criminal Offence. The scale of blacklisting has been exposed but employers have walked away scot free. Making blacklisting a criminal offence and introducing a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers funded by the blacklisting companies would help in righting this wrong. Directors of companies found guilty of blacklisting should also be barred from holding directorships in future.

8. Democracy at Work. Workers create the wealth of any enterprise and yet are treated like chattels with no say over their lives at work. Trade union representation on company and employing bodies boards should be introduced as a basic democratic right.

9. The Right to Co-operatise. Even the Coalition has advocated the benefits of mutuals and John Lewis has become the icon of mutualisation. Let’s take them at their word and let Labour propose legislation which will enable workers in any company to vote to mutualise their company.

10. Ending and Reversing Privatisation. Privatisation has allowed speculators to profit obscenely from the wage cuts imposed on the workers of the services they have taken over and price rises for their customers. Labour should end all privatisation and commence the process of reversing privatisation by bringing rail and Royal Mail back into public ownership and control.

11. Making Work Safe. An average of 140 deaths a year at work even on the Government’s minimal estimate is intolerable. Labour must restore the cuts made by the Coalition in the Health and Safety Executive and introduce a new comprehensive Health and Safety Act that reverses the retrograde legislation introduced by the Coalition which has confused, obscured and narrowed the coverage of the existing health and safety law.

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