Phillips: Labour staff ‘don’t want to be used as tool’ in employment rights row

Sienna Rodgers
© Peter_Fleming/Shutterstock.com

Shadow minister Jess Phillips has said Labour staff “don’t want to be used as some sort of tool in an argument” in response to the suggestion that the party should ‘get its own house in order’ before putting forward employment rights policies.

Labour launched its “new deal for working people” campaign on Monday. ‘Security at work’ was the first topic of the initiative, which will carry on throughout the summer with particular themes led by different shadow cabinet members each week.

Keir Starmer has promised that Labour would make Britain “the best place to work” after a decade of Tory failure that has seen family incomes stagnating, more than 3.6 million people now in insecure work, and in-work poverty at a record high.

But the party came under fire from some as the campaign started less than a week after it emerged that Labour was hiring up to 50 ‘temporary investigation officers’ through a recruitment agency while seeking to cut at least 90 staff.

“So Keir will make Britain the best place to work – unless you work for @UKLabour. He has made 90 staff redundant. But is also recruiting workers on insecure temporary contracts with worse employment conditions,” Labour MP Diane Abbott tweeted.

Commenting on Times Radio today, Jess Phillips said: “Funnily enough, before doing the morning round, I speak to Labour staff about the lines of the day. What was clear to them is that they don’t want to be used as some sort of tool in an argument going on between the Labour Party, so I would just stress that.

“But I’ve spent my time since being elected – both on the council and to Westminster – trying to always improve the experience of the workers and activists within any political movement.

“So I’m never going to say the Labour Party is perfect and that I don’t think there needs to be improvements in how we handle all sorts of different cases, and I would strive for that, but I would like to know what it’s like in the Conservative Party.”

LabourList reported over a week ago that the temporary staff on six-month contracts, being hired via agency Love Success, would work in Labour’s governance and legal unit dealing with the large backlog of internal complaints.

Asked about the job ads during Labour’s national executive committee meeting on July 20th, general secretary David Evans said: “They are not agency workers, we are contracting a company we currently work with to deliver a service.”

The Independent was told by a Labour source: “This is unrelated to the announcement about the voluntary severance scheme. It was agreed by the NEC several weeks ago as a necessary and temporary measure to help us clear the backlog of complaints as quickly as possible.”

GMB and Unite trade unions representing Labour staff jointly responded to party plans to cut at least 90 jobs with anger at what they described as a “lack of communication and consultation”, LabourList revealed last week.

In a letter to the party, staff unions pressed Labour on alternative cost-saving measures, asking why senior pay reductions have not been considered and why staff have not been offered the chance to reduce their hours.

GMB and Unite have made it clear that in the case of too few applying for the voluntary redundancy scheme, “we will not be accepting compulsory redundancies as an option”. Labour has said it would consider them only as a “last resort”.

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