HeartUnions week: Why Labour’s new deal for working people is so important

Justin Madders
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

This year’s HeartUnions week, 14th-20th February 2022, is a chance to tell the story about why unions are vital for everyone at work, and encourage them to join a union. Labour understands how pivotal work is in people’s lives – that’s why our new deal for working people is so important.

Throughout the pandemic, working people have been keeping the country on its feet. They worked on the frontline, caring for society’s most vulnerable, keeping essential services running and keeping food on shop shelves – many in insecure roles, without proper rights and protections. The Living Wage Foundation estimates that over a million key workers are in insecure work, lacking basic rights and protections, with one in nine in insecure work across the economy as a whole.

As the Tories’ cost of living crisis bites, let us not forget that wages have stagnated for over a decade. In-work poverty is at a record high, with one in six working families in poverty. Working people need a pay rise – and to win that, working people need stronger unions.

Unionised workplaces are more likely to provide decent pay, good training, and benefits, such as holiday and sick pay, above the statutory minimum. We’ve seen the importance of unions throughout the pandemic, from winning the furlough scheme to agreeing on safe working conditions with employers. They have also helped keep the country going with agreements in key sectors.

But unions have been subjected to increasingly restrictive rules. The UK has one of the most regulated systems of industrial action in the world, with unions having to comply with complex and often unnecessary legal requirements. These restrictions mean collective bargaining and organising is made more difficult.

The imbalance of power between individual workers and employers means that it is essential that workers can band together to improve their bargaining power. The right of unions to operate effectively in the workplace is vital for achieving fairness, dignity and democracy at work for all.

That’s why Labour’s green paper on employment rights – our new deal for working people – is so important, and why issues around work must be at the heart of our contract with the public.

Launched by Angela Rayner at Labour conference 2021, and drawn up in partnership with Labour’s affiliated unions, it is a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of working people by strengthening individual and collective rights. Keir Starmer has promised that a Labour government will enact these commitments within 100 days of taking office.

A Labour government will:

  • strengthen rights at work for all workers, from day one on the job;
  • end fire and rehire;
  • make work more family-friendly, and make it easier to balance work with home, community and family life;
  • ban zero-hours contracts and ensure everyone has the right to regular hours they can rely on;
  • strengthen trade union rights, raising pay and conditions;
  • bring in fair pay agreements to drive up pay and conditions for all workers, using sectoral collective bargaining.

Recovery from the pandemic must be a moment of change in our country. There can be no going back to the old way of doing things.

Labour’s contract with the British people is based on security, prosperity and respect – and these values extend to our commitment to a new deal for working people, too. Working people deserve security at work, fair pay that supports a good quality of life, and respect and dignity in the workplace.

This HeartUnions week, I pay tribute to the work that unions do every day to win a better deal for their members – and I urge everyone to join a union.

To find out more about Labour’s New Deal for Working People, go to labourunions.org.uk/newdeal. To join a union, go to tuc.org.uk/join-a-union.

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