Tories will pay “heavy political price” for attacking workers’ rights, O’Grady warns

Frances O’Grady has warned that the Tories will pay a “heavy political price” for attacking workers’ rights in an interview with LabourList, after polling revealed strong support for boosting people’s rights in the workplace.

The polling – conducted by GQR on behalf of the TUC – found that 74% of respondents were in favour of ending ‘fire and rehire’, rising to 77% among Conservative voters.

68% of those surveyed supported a ban on zero-hours contracts – including 66% of Tory voters – while 77% were in favour of the introduction of ‘fair pay agreements’ across whole sectors, rising to 78% among Conservatives.

Commenting on the findings in an interview with LabourList, the TUC general secretary said: “We’re sending a big message to Liz Truss, which is: ‘Don’t be the Prime Minister for P&O.’  Slashing workers’ rights is not going to deliver growth. On the contrary, it will hurt the country and hurt working people.”

P&O Ferries announced in March that it was making 800 of its staff redundant with immediate effect to widespread outcry from politicians and across the labour movement. Next week marks six months since the company’s announcement.

O’Grady added: “We know that parts of the Conservative Party have long had precious rights, like limits on unsafe working hours, in their sights. They want to attack them, they want to attack the 48-hour a week maximum.

“They want to attack paid holidays and rights to rest breaks. And we’re saying hands off, because you’ll pay a heavy political price for making working lives worse.”

The TUC’s polling of 3,040 voters was conducted between July 29th and August 11th. 76% of respondents reported that they were in favour of boosting workers’ rights in the gig economy, rising to 78% of Conservative voters

Almost 80% of those surveyed said they supported protecting and enhancing workers’ rights that have been retained since the UK left the EU, including paid holiday, rest breaks and safe limits on working time.

The Times reported on Saturday that the new Prime Minister is planning to review existing EU worker protections, such as the 48-hour working week, in an attempt to “improve the competitiveness of the UK economy”.

The TUC warned that workers are facing a “double whammy” as the government threatens to “rip up” their legal rights while at the same time attacking their ability to defend their working conditions through strike action.

O’Grady told LabourList that she has no faith that the current government is going to have a “road to Damascus conversion” on workers’ rights. She declared: “We’ll keep making the case because that’s what we do. Whoever’s in power, we make the case for a fairer Britain.

“But all the signs are that – just as we’re in the midst of the worst cost-of-living crisis in living memory – that this government is going to take us into an even worse place, and it’s ordinary people who suffer.”

The TUC described the economic vision of Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng as “ideological and reckless”. Writing in the Financial Times, the new Chancellor said growth would be at the centre of Truss’ plan for the economy. But the TUC said attacking workers’ rights is “completely at odds” with any plan for real economic growth.

The union body added that “no serious business leader is clamouring to slash the rights enjoyed by their staff”, arguing that the move will give a “green light to P&O style rogue employers to skimp on pay and drive down workplace conditions”.

LabourList will soon be publishing the full exclusive interview with Frances O’Grady.

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