Thu. Sep 28th, 2023


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Keir Starmer given warning after Labour ‘U-turn’ on workers’ rights policy

3 min read

Labour MPs and a key union boss have issued Sir Keir Starmer with a warning after Labour partly rowed back its commitment to workers’ rights and protection of gig economy workers.

The warnings came after it emerged that a 2021 pledge to create a single status of “worker” for all but the genuinely self-employed could be delayed for consultation should Labour enter No.10 in 2024.

The commitment, popular among left-wing Labour MPs, was introduced to protect workers at firms like Uber and Deliveroo and provide them with basic rights.

Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, whose portfolio covers workers’ rights, said on Friday morning that Labour still intended to ban zero-hour contracts, tackle bogus self-employment and end qualifying periods for rights what she described as the “biggest levelling-up of workers’ rights in decades”.

But when it emerged that Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) last month agreed that the plan would not be introduced immediately if the party wins the next election and would instead form part of a consultation on genuinely self-employed workers, the party’s top brass came under fire for what has been seen as another U-turn on policy pledges.

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Ms Rayner insisted the policy was not being “watered down,” adding: “we will now set out in detail how we will implement it and tackle the Tories’ scaremongering.”

The changes include changing its plan to give workers “day one” rights including sick pay and parental leave.

The NPF said this would not prevent “probationary periods with fair and transparent rules and processes”.

While the overall policy on workers’ rights was backed by all Labour’s affiliated unions, Unite abstained on it at the NPF.

And left-wing Labour MPs have also insisted that gig economy workers’ rights should not be delayed in the event of a Labour government.

Former shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told iNews: “Our plans to increase protection for so-called gig economy workers and other forms of insecure employment are massively popular with voters.

“These are low paid workers enduring some of the most tenuous employment conditions imaginable, with the constant threat of losing their livelihoods.

“There’s an expectation among the electorate that Labour will deliver on its plans to strengthen workers rights during the early stages of being in government.”

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A Unite spokesman was stronger in their rebuttal, saying: “Unite simply won’t support policies without all the detail and understanding of the impact it will have on our members and workers more widely.

“These are negotiations that we will be fully involved with.

“As the general election draws nearer, Keir Starmer has to prove Labour will deliver for workers and we need to see clear plans for this.”

The Financial Times, which first reported the move, said Labour also confirmed in the NPF that probation for new recruits would continue. The paper reported this was part of a move to try and win over business leaders ahead of the approaching election.

Stephen Morgan, a shadow education minister, said he could not comment on the policy process before the party’s manifesto but made clear it would be “pro-worker and pro-business”.

He added: “We have got a really good relationship with business now, we can be trusted to run our economy and to run our country, and we have got a set of policies which are pro-worker too.”

Sharing the move on X, formerly Twitter, Ms Rayner said the party would ban zero-hours contracts, end the practice of “fire and rehire” and end “qualifying periods” for basic rights.

She said: “We’ll make work more family friendly by making flexible working a day one right, except where it isn’t reasonably feasible, strengthening protections for pregnant women and by urgently reviewing parental leave.”

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