Labour names and shames UK bosses who “dehumanise” workers

Elliot Chappell

The Labour Party has set out to ‘name and shame’ five of the worst employers in the UK, described by Jeremy Corbyn as having “exploited, ripped off and dehumanised” workers.

The “worst offenders” according to Labour are Amazon, Sports Direct, ISS, Asda and Uber – all identified by the party as “bad bosses” who have promoted insecure and unsafe work in Britain.

Labour will launch its work manifesto on Tuesday. The set of policies is expected to include:

  • An end to ‘bogus’ self-employment;
  • Abolishing zero-hour contracts;
  • Strengthening the law so that those who work regular hours for more than 12 weeks will have a right to a regular contract reflecting those hours;
  • Introducing a living wage of £10 an hour for all workers;
  • Requiring breaks during shifts to be paid;
  • Establishing a royal commission to bring health (including mental health) and safety legislation up to date;
  • Repealing anti-trade union legislation, including the Trade Union Act 2016;
  • Creating a workers’ protection agency;
  • Ending the qualifying period for basic rights at work, giving everyone full and equal rights from day one at work – whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent;
  • Requiring employers to create and maintain workplaces free from harassment, including by third parties.

Labour has claimed that the 30,000 people employed by Amazon across its 16 warehouses in the UK are forced to endure appalling health and safety standards, low pay and extreme workloads.

Last year, ambulances were called out once every two days to Amazon warehouses in the UK, and employees reported such brutal workplace targets that they had to urinate in bottles rather than take toilet breaks.

Sports Direct employs 17,000 people in the UK. A parliamentary committee in 2016 found that its workers weren’t being paid the minimum wage, and were being penalised for taking breaks or sick days.

ISS has been given public contracts worth £307m since 2015. Labour says the company changed the way it paid workers so that employees did not get paid for three weeks, forcing many to take out loan.

The change caused such hardship among the ISS workforce that GMB union launched a food bank at a hospital in which they worked. The union claim there are also widespread reports that workers are not paid sick pay from day one.

Labour says that Asda coerced employees to sign a ‘flexible’ contract which means that they no longer get paid for their breaks, and are forced to work bank holidays and weekends or face being fired before Christmas.

The party also highlights that Asda’s profits exceeded more than £92m last year with directors being paid £12m – but the organisation cut more than 5,000 jobs.

Labour has named Uber for its bad employment practices and also cites a failure to ensure safety to customers, noting that the global minicab company recently lost its license in London.

Uber has tried to classify its drivers as self-employed, excluding them from protections and benefits including the minimum wage, sick and holiday pay.

Commenting ahead of the release of the manifesto, Jeremy Corbyn said: “The Conservatives are on the side of bad bosses who have exploited, ripped off and dehumanised workers.

“We’ll call time on insecure and unsafe work that leaves people without the rights and dignity they deserve. We’ll call time on discrimination in the workplace that leaves women vulnerable to harassment and unequal pay.

“And we’ll call time on the running down of workers’ rights to organise collectively to boost their pay and improve their working conditions. It’s workers who are the real wealth creators. Labour will be on your side.”

Labour’s employment rights spokesperson, Laura Pidcock, said: “So many people’s working lives are dominated by low pay, insecurity and powerlessness. It is a sign of this broken system that many people, and not just the lowest earners, are forced to top up their monthly wage with debt, just to cover their living costs.

“As our economy has flat-lined, wages have stagnated. People are, on average, paid less than they were ten years ago. This is a scandal that must end. The Labour Party is the only party that is committed to eradicating in-work poverty within the next parliament.”

Average earnings remain lower than they were in 2008. Since 2010, growth in earnings has not kept pace with inflation, resulting in a real terms reduction in wages.

Pidcock added: “People spend so much of their time at work and that time should not be characterised by worry and fear. As a government, we will be on the side of the worker, the good employer and the trade unionist, while putting exploitative employers on notice.

“Our transformative programme for workers would give them real power, real respect and dignity, while changing the culture of work in this nation. By breathing hope into workplaces across Britain, we can achieve real change.”

Ahead of the general election on December 12th, Labour has committed to taking on bad employers and ending exploitative work practices. It has promised to guarantee everyone decent pay, security and dignity at work under a Labour government.

Labour’s work manifesto plans have been welcomed by trade unions. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady have described them as a “game-changer”, while UNISON’s Dave Prentis said “all bad bosses” should be “held to account”.

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