Labour conference backs £15 minimum wage and sick pay at living wage

Elliot Chappell

Delegates at Labour’s annual conference have voted for a motion urging the party to raise the minimum wage to £15 per hour following the resignation of Andy McDonald who said he was told to argue against the ambitious policy.

After a debate at the conference centre in Brighton this afternoon on the motion, which also committed Labour to raising statutory sick pay to a living wage, the party’s annual gathering backed the policy via a show of hands.

The current minimum wage is £8.91 per hour for those aged 23 and over, £8.36 for those aged 21 and 22, and £6.56 for 18 to 20-year olds. Labour has committed to raising the legal minimum to £10 per hour, as confirmed in its employment rights green paper published over the weekend.

Labour MP for Middlesbrough McDonald, the last Corbynite in the shadow cabinet, said on Monday his position had “become untenable” as he “wanted to fight for the working people of this country” but “cannot do this” from the frontbench.

The former Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary said the Labour leader’s office “instructed me to go into a meeting to argue against a national minimum wage of £15 an hour and against statutory sick pay at the living wage”.

Labour is not bound by policy passed at its annual conference – even if motions are passed unanimously. It is Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) and ‘Clause V’ meeting before an election that decides which parts of the party programme are included in the manifesto.

Delegates today also voted for a motion committing the party to raising the wages of all care workers to £15 per hour earlier. The motion considered related to the wages of all workers.

The vote this evening followed the decision by the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) to disaffiliate from the Labour Party this afternoon, accusing Keir Starmer of waging a “factional internal war” instead of focusing on “real change”.

BFAWU has been campaigning for a £15 minimum wage. Labour’s commitment to £10 an hour has been a key source of tension between the leadership and the union.

Below is the full text of the policy motion passed by conference this evening.

Composite four – end fire and rehire and workers’ rights

Conference notes the Conservatives and employers are determined to use the pandemic as an opportunity to advance their agenda of driving down workers’ pay, terms and conditions.

The Conservatives always act to cut people’s rights, protections and the obligations employers have towards the people that create their profits, while always increasing the restrictions on trade unions.

A quarter of workers have experienced a worsening of their terms and conditions “including a cut in their pay – since the pandemic began.

The escalating number of employers across all sectors using weak employment protections to ‘fire and rehire’, with devastating consequences for workers & their families. This is affecting workers who previously had secure, regular work and incomes.

Go Northwest threatened bus drivers with longer working days and weeks for less pay. Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) threatened to fire & rehire 4,000 of its workers.

The pandemic has amplified the need for workers to be in unions to guarantee health and safety and other important working conditions.

Before the pandemic, one in nine workers “3.8 million people” were already ‘insecure’, they did not have access to basic rights at work and could be dismissed at will: including those on zero-hour contracts and agency workers.

We have some of the worst public and statutory holiday entitlements in Europe. Full-time workers have among the longest hours of any country. In-work stress is at record levels. Job insecurity is rising. False self-employment is increasingly used by employers to dodge their obligations. Technology is being used for surveillance. Average pay is lower than before the financial crash.

Conference denounces the Tories’ plan to impose new restrictions on transport workers through a minimum service requirement that may well be extended to other groups of workers.

Conference believes mechanisms such as ‘fire and rehire’ and other ways in which workers are effectively blackmailed with unemployment into accepting intensified work, cuts to pay and pensions and increases in their hours have no place in our society. People are entitled to secure work and earnings. The power imbalance between workers and employers must change.

Conference reaffirms its support for Labour’s policies of stronger individual employment rights, the repeal of all anti Trade Union laws sectoral collective bargaining and the creation of new collective rights and freedoms, including banning ‘fire and rehire’, and a full package of measures that will end insecurity and instead win pay increases and better working lives. The labour movement must fight in workplaces, local communities and nationally to ensure all jobs are good jobs and people receive fair rewards for the profits and wealth they create.

Conference resolves to support working people in dispute fighting employers using ‘fire and rehire’ and similar mechanisms, to stand with those campaigning and fighting to improve their pay and conditions, supporting their demands and defending the right of all of us to resist attacks on our pay, terms and conditions and to protest.

£15 per hour statutory minimum wage.

Increasing statutory sick pay to a living wage, to be paid from day one of absence; and for the lower earnings limit that means low paid workers are not entitled to SSP to be abolished.

Ban zero-hours contracts

End outsourcing in public services – better work-life balance, a legal right to flexible working by default, a ‘right to switch off’ so that homes don’t become 24/7 offices, and reductions in working hours without loss of pay.

Stronger protections from day one.

Conference notes TUC Congress 2020 agreed to organise a special conference on opposing the antiunion laws and a national demonstration. The party will encourage CLPs to support and get involved in these when they become possible.

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