Exclusive: Andy McDonald launches ‘workplace power’ taskforce with unions

Sienna Rodgers
© Richard Townshend/CC BY 3.0

Labour frontbencher Andy McDonald has joined with party-affiliated trade unions to launch a new taskforce called ‘Recover and Rebuild: Power in the Workplace’ that held its first meeting today, LabourList can reveal.

The project, kicking off during HeartUnions week, aims to develop Labour’s agenda on workplace rights and shape a new deal for workers after the coronavirus pandemic, during which frontline staff have kept the country going.

LabourList understands that the ‘Recover and Rebuild: Power in the Workplace’ group is preparing to publish its first report later this year and intends to feed into the Labour Party’s policy development process.

The founding statement of the initiative, agreed by members today, says it will “set out a shared vision for a new deal for working people which will detail how workers can be collectively and individually empowered”.

Its purpose is to ensure that “every worker is entitled to fair pay, job security, dignity at work and work-life-balance, safety at work” while contributing towards the mission “to help Britain recover and rebuild from the virus”.

All 12 trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party – Unite, UNISON, GMB, Usdaw, FBU, Community, CWU, TSSA, ASLEF, BFAWU, MU and NUM – have representative members on the taskforce and will play their part.

The government was recently confirmed to be reviewing workers’ rights post-Brexit – but following criticism by Labour and the trade union movement Kwasi Kwarteng as the new Business Secretary cancelled the review.

The opposition party and unions have also highlighted ‘fire and rehire’ tactics being used during the pandemic. Keir Starmer declared at TUC Congress in September that the tactics are “wrong” and “should be illegal”.

The Labour leader said: “I’m calling on the government to act now. Introduce legislation to end fire and re-hire, and give working people the security they need. If you do that, you will have our full support.”

Although Kwarteng told Andy McDonald in the House of Commons that he had concerns about the tactics, he did not answer when Labour’s Shadow Employment Rights Secretary asked whether the government would outlaw them.

Below is the full text of the founding statement.

The coronavirus pandemic has bought into sharp relief the imbalance of power in the workplace that the Labour and trade union movement have long sought to rectify. It has also highlighted the crucial role that trade unions play in speaking up for their members, from securing PPE and enforcing safe working arrangements to protecting jobs and incomes.

The impact of the pandemic has demonstrated how a lack of individual and collective rights and the weakness of health and safety protections has contributed to unsafe working practices and economic insecurity that has left the UK with the highest death toll in the world and the worst economic crisis of any major economy.

The weakness of employment rights and imbalances of power in the workplace have been exacerbated in the past year but insecurity, low pay and a lack of dignity are longstanding problems that must be addressed to improve living standards and provide economic security to the UK’s 28 million workers.

Evidence shows that fair and decent conditions of work improve productivity, economic opportunity and health and wellbeing. To ensure everyone is entitled to fair pay, job security and dignity at work and to address inequality, all workers must have a comprehensive set of rights and protections and trade unions must be strengthened to ensure they have the rights needed to represent their members to organise, bargain and win for working people.

An economy where security and opportunity are available to all can only be achieved when good workplace relations are established underpinned with strong laws and mechanisms that enrich the lives of workers and reward them fairly.

To this end, The Labour Party and its affiliate trade unions have established a taskforce which will set out the party’s approach: Recover and Rebuild: Power in the Workplace. Working together, the taskforce will develop Labour’s strong agenda on workplace rights and set out a shared vision for a new deal for working people which will detail how workers can be collectively and individually empowered to ensure that every worker is entitled to fair pay, job security, dignity at work and work-life-balance, safety at work, and to help Britain recover and rebuild from the virus.

Chair: Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary
ASLEF: Mick Whelan, General Secretary ASLEF
BFAWU: Ian Hodson, President
Community: Kate Dearden, Head of Research, Policy and External Relations
CWU: Dave Ward, General Secretary
GMB: Warren Kenny, Acting General Secretary
FBU: Matt Wrack, General Secretary
Musicians’ Union: Horace Trubridge, General Secretary
NUM: Chris Kitchen, General Secretary
TSSA: Manuel Cortes, General Secretary
Unison: Liz Snape, Assistant General Secretary
Unite: Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary
USDAW: Paddy Lillis, General Secretary

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