Conference backs £15 minimum wage, public ownership and MPs on picket lines

Katie Neame

Delegates at Labour’s annual conference have passed the first batch of motions, including committing Labour to a £15 minimum wage, backing public ownership of essential services and utilities and supporting MPs joining rail picket lines.

The growing challenges of our economy, composite motion one, put forward by Unite, was passed by conference this afternoon by a show of hands.

The motion commits Labour to calling for a “new political and societal consensus” to include taking back control of essential services and utilities through new models of democratic and efficient public ownership.

The motion calls on the party to provide a “genuine alternative plan to solve the cost-of-living crisis, to prevent profiteering and reshape the economy to the benefit of workers and communities”. It also urges Labour to support trade unions as the “most effective vehicles to organise workers”.

Activist from Labour for a Green New Deal expressed anger ahead of conference at the decision of the conference arrangements committee to rule their motion on public ownership out of order.

The motion proposed by the group called for “democratic public ownership models across the economy, led by national public ownership of key sectors” – including energy, rail, mail, water and manufacturing green technologies.

The growing challenges of our economy, composite motion two, proposed by Usdaw, was backed by delegates in a show of hands. It calls on Labour to back the introduction of a requirement for employers to consult with workers on new workplace technologies.

Usdaw’s motion also calls for Labour to support a “significant and long-term investment” in skills funding, including the reinstatement of the Union Learning Fund across England and for the party to back strengthened collective rights including reducing the thresholds for trade union recognition.

Investing in infrastructure, composite motion three, was the third motion passed by delegates. The motion, put forward by ASLEF, reaffirms Labour’s commitment to a publicly-owned railway and the delivery of key infrastructure projects.

The motion also resolves that conference “stands in solidarity with workers taking industrial action over the cost-of-living crisis” and states that a “good way” of showing solidarity with workers is to visit them on picket lines.

It adds: “Conference supports a negotiated settlement in the rail dispute and supports all Labour MPs attending picket lines until such an outcome is reached.”

Investing in infrastructure, composite motion four, was carried by delegates in a show of hands. The motion was proposed by the CWU and called on conference to give its “unequivocal support” to all UK workers “taking strike action for higher
pay and in defence of their jobs, terms and conditions”.

The motion reaffirms that Labour in power will bring Royal Mail back into public ownership, reunite it with the Post Office and create a publicly-owned Post Bank.

Workers’ pay, composite motion five, was also backed by delegates. The motion, submitted by UNISON, calls on Labour to commit to pay rises “at least in line with inflation”, the introduction of a £15 per hour minimum wage and reform of the welfare system to “protect dignity and provide adequate income”.

Delegates at last year’s conference also voted for a motion urging the party to raise the minimum wage to £15 per hour, but Labour has not adopted it as policy. The party committed in August to reform the national minimum wage to ensure that it is in line with living costs and to axe lower pay brackets for younger workers.

Commenting on the motions passed today, Momentum national secretary Lorcan Whitehead said: “We’re delighted that conference voted unanimously for these bold policies, from public ownership to inflation-busting pay rises.

“From the trade unions proposing the motions to Momentum’s long-standing campaigning for them, the labour movement is united behind this bold response to the Tory cost-of-living crisis and Kwarteng’s class war budget.

“Now that these policies form part of the party programme, we will campaign relentlessly over the next two years for their inclusion in Labour’s next general election manifesto.”

Below is the full text of the composite motions considered this afternoon.

The growing challenges of our economy one – composite motion one

Conference believes our economy is broken; it does not deliver for workers or society as a whole. The current cost of living crisis has been accelerated by an economy that prioritises extreme profit at the expense of degrading the living standards and wages of workers.

Conference believes that the root of this crisis is a structural imbalance of power and wealth decades in the making, which permeates the world of work, how the economy operates and drives institutionalised inequalities of race, gender, disability and class.

This imbalance has also degraded our public services and alongside a lack of regulation in the private sector, is allowing profits to circulate outside of the UK economy and into the pockets of billionaires, private companies and other nation
states.

Conference notes wages were suppressed in response to the economic crisis in 2008 and have never recovered. Instead the “recovery” saw record profits, widening income and wealth inequality and growing poverty.

The profit margins for the UK’s biggest listed companies were 73% higher in 2021 than pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Between 2020 and 2021 average pay for the highest paid directors of the UK’s biggest listed companies leapt a colossal 29%.

Unite has exposed how this profiteering – not workers’ wages – is driving inflation, going far beyond the energy sector.

Yet it is workers expected to exercise pay restraint and continue to accept deteriorating living standards. People can’t afford to accept another national pay cut to subsidise profits.

Conference believes workers must not be made to pay for an economic crisis fuelled by profiteering.

To build a better future we must tackle this and meet the growing challenges facing the country. The failure of the UK economy to deliver for workers goes far beyond the cost-of-living crisis.

That the solution to this crisis and all major challenges converging on society, from the climate emergency to the health crisis, is rooted in the expansion of the state and the democratic control and ownership of our utilities and essential industries

Conference resolves that Labour will act to;

  • Take effective measures, providing a genuine alternative plan to solve the cost-of-living crisis, to prevent profiteering and reshape the economy to the benefit of workers and communities
  • Support trade unions as the most effective vehicles to organise workers and win better jobs, pay and conditions that creates the race to the top for working people including higher wages and stronger employment rights.
  • Ensure companies that receive Government financial support, investment or procurement contracts have enforced guarantees to protect and create decent jobs and pay.
  • Call for a new political and societal consensus, including the need for: Taking back control of essential services and utilities through new models of democratic and efficient public ownership and Democratising the governance systems within big business, introducing fair pay ratios between CEO’s and their employees, ensuring that shareholder dividends are no longer prioritised over workers’ wages

Mover: Unite
Seconder: CWU

The growing challenges of our economy two – composite motion two

Conference is deeply concerned by the growing economic challenges facing working people. One of the critical challenges workers face in the workplace is the development and introduction of new technology and automation.

Workers will need new skills to adapt to the changing world of work, and to respond to the potential challenges that new technologies pose such as driving discrimination and inequality. The increased use of automation and AI in the workplace is occurring rapidly across all sectors. An estimated nine in ten employees in the UK will need to retrain by 2030, at an additional cost of £13bn.

At the moment it is too easy and too cheap for employers to make workers redundant as a result of the introduction of automation systems; this needs to change. Conference is clear that new technologies should be designed with workers and for workers, to ensure that they contribute to better work, with greater reward, autonomy, and dignity for all working people.

Conference believes that we need a new deal for workers based on comprehensive skills training, strengthening trade union rights and high quality, secure employment.

Conference calls on the Labour Party to commit to support the following changes to ensure that workers are supported at the heart of technology changes at work:

  • A requirement for employers to consult with workers on new workplace technologies, as well as usage of existing technology including the use of Equality Impact Assessments which employers must act upon. This should include the requirement to carry out algorithmic impact assessments where data driven systems are used, to understand the impact of such technologies on workers.
  • A right to retrain, including a legal right to paid time off for retraining.
  • A significant and long-term investment in skills funding, including the reinstatement of the Union Learning Fund across England.
  • Investment in lifelong learning, including the introduction of a new lifelong learning fund.
  • The creation of an independent National Skills Taskforce to regularly forecast supply and demand for nationwide skills investment and make recommendations to government.
  • A fundamental overhaul of the apprenticeship levy so that it is more targeted to workers that need it and more flexible, including allowing its use for training for future jobs.
  • A right for workers to have human involvement in decision making that affects them at work— reinforcing and strengthening protections in the GDPR against solely automated decision making.
  • Strengthened collective rights including, reducing the thresholds for trade union recognition.
  • Strengthening protection against redundancy, including 90 days’ consultation for large scale redundancies and three weeks’ statutory redundancy pay for all workers irrespective of age.

Mover: Usdaw
Seconder: Community

Investing in infrastructure one – composite motion three

Conference notes that successive Tory governments have made promises about levelling up in the UK. Sadly, they’ve failed to honour these promises of investment that would help achieve a fairer, more prosperous Britain. One of the most obvious
betrayals has been the scrapping of key infrastructure projects.

Conference notes the current rail dispute which has seen rail workers take industrial action at levels not seen in a generation in the face of threatened job losses, ticket office closures and falling pay.

Parts of our country have suffered from decades of under-investment in industries broken by privatisation and fragmentation. Rail is a prime example of this. Profit has consistently been prioritised and short-termism has led to an industry at risk of
managed decline. This has led to the cancellation of the eastern leg of HS2 and huge parts of Northern Powerhouse Rail to name just two.

Modern infrastructure combined with a valued and skilled workforce in our key industries will help foster economic growth and an efficient economy. They’re also vital in bridging the gaps in prosperity and opportunity between various parts of the
country.

The Labour Party must pursue policies which accept borrowing to invest in essential industries, including both infrastructure and the workforce, is the sensible and economically prudent way forward, especially considering the need to cut carbon
emissions.

Many rail workers are going into a third or fourth year of a pay freeze, despite being hailed as vital key workers in the coronavirus pandemic and for stepping up to deliver exceptional services after Queen Elizabeth’s death.

Conference notes that a good way of showing solidarity with workers taking strike action is to visit them on picket lines. Conference opposes proposed mass closure of ticket offices. Conference supports a negotiated settlement in the rail dispute and supports all Labour MPs attending picket lines until such an outcome is reached.

Conference reaffirms the Party’s commitment to a publicly owned railway and the delivery of infrastructure projects including the eastern leg of HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and a rolling programme of electrification. Conference also stands in solidarity with workers taking industrial action over the cost of living crisis, believes in fully staffed services that support communities and opposes cuts to staffing in essential industries.

Conference believes that investment in our rail network – in both infrastructure and people – is vital to meet our climate commitments, boost the economy, improve air quality and improve accessibility and connectivity. Conference believes that rail services should be run in the public interest under public ownership.

Mover: ASLEF
Seconder: TSSA

Investing in infrastructure two – composite motion three

This conference gives its unequivocal support to all UK workers taking strike action for higher pay and in defence of their jobs, terms and conditions and notes support for the 170,000+ workers across the communications sector who have recently been on strike.

In the case of the Royal Mail dispute, conference notes the disturbing revelation surrounding a possible takeover of the company by a foreign private equity firm. Conference notes this is subject to a government investigation under the National Security and Investment Act, because Royal Mail is deemed to be a key part of the UK’s infrastructure and this may present
a threat to the Universal Service Obligation (USO).

Conference agrees that any so-called modernisation plans put forward by the company must not include a “levelling down” of workers pay, conditions and the services available to the public. Neither should Royal Mail be turned into just another a “gig economy” parcel courier, with bogus self-employment and a delivery franchise model.

Conference agrees Labour must immediately register their opposition to the takeover with the government, whilst also seeking assurances that as a result of any change to ownership the current USO is completely protected.

Conference recognises that the root cause of these threats lie in the continued privatisation and liberalisation of Royal Mail.

Therefore, conference reaffirms that the next Labour government will:

  • Bring Royal Mail back into public ownership, reunite it with the Post Office and create a publicly-owned Post Bank.

Mover: CWU
Seconder: Unite

Workers’ pay – composite motion five

Conference notes Labour’s proud record as the party of decent pay. It was Labour governments that delivered equal pay, the minimum wage, and record investment in public services, and it is Labour in power in Wales rolling out the real living wage for
all care workers.

Conference believes that the cost-of-living crisis is a low pay crisis. The only way to avoid the steepest drop in living standards since the 1950s is to give Britain’s workers a pay rise.

Conference thanks public service workers who put their lives on the line through the Covid-19 pandemic and notes that over a decade of Tory pay restraint and austerity has left them vulnerable to this cost-of-living crisis.

As high inflation continues to push up prices and put strain on household budgets, Conference therefore resolves that Labour will commit to taking urgent steps to improve pay and rebuild a fairer economy including:

  • Pay increases at least in line with inflation
  • Government at all levels to take seriously their responsibility to fund public services properly and deliver a fair wage to those who provide them
  • £15 per hour minimum wage
  • Job security and proper sick pay
  • Reform of the welfare system to protect dignity and provide adequate income
  • Affordable, good quality childcare that allows parents to return to work and which pays early years staff a decent wage
  • Employers, not workers, to bear the costs of working, including hospital carparking fees and out-of-date mileage rates.

Mover: Unison
Seconder: GMB

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