Strengthening workers’ rights should be Labour’s priority
by Jeremy Corbyn, The Guardian
Saturday 30 July 2016 17.00 EDT
The economy isn’t working for millions of our people. Real wages have fallen, insecurity and low-paid jobs are spreading, investment is stagnating, corporate scandals are multiplying and Britain is heading for another downturn.
Economic failure is a central reason why people are no longer prepared to accept politics as usual. It’s one of the reasons I was elected Labour leader in a landslide 10 months ago – and why there can be no going back to a broken economic model or the politics of the past. Even Theresa May understands she has to pay lip service to change in the workplace and the boardroom.
In the past couple of weeks, a string of high street corporate names – Sports Direct, BHS, Lloyds, Byron burger chain – has driven home the reality faced by a huge number of workers today: a race to the bottom in insecurity, low pay, stress and exploitation.
We have record employment, but also record levels of poverty among those in work. More than 6 million workers earn less than the living wage. Work for millions has become insecure and stressful. We have to change that. Sports Direct’s huge Shirebrook warehouse is on the site of a colliery that employed large numbers of well-paid, unionised, skilled workers. Today, thousands are employed as agency workers and on zero-hours contracts.
Migrant workers are often targets for that exploitation – underpaid and brutally discarded, as we saw in the past week at Byron.
The Fawley oil refinery provides an alternative. Unionised workers on £125 per day saw workers brought in from Italy and Bulgaria on just £48. Last week, impending industrial action won backdated pay parity for their co-workers. By working together through their union, the workforce stopped established workers being undercut and migrant workers being exploited.
Unite has called on the government to stamp out zero-hours contracts, as has been done in other countries, a call backed by Labour under my leadership.
But we cannot replace zero-hours contracts with one-hour contracts. People need to know what their hours and earnings are from one week to the next and they need security in their earnings; rent and other bills still need to be paid whether you have worked 30 hours or three. Workers need not only minimum guaranteed hours, but also reasonable compensation for being available.
These exploitative practices are spreading through our economy and Labour under my leadership will back action to end them.
Unions such as the GMB are resisting the race to the bottom in the labour market by representing Uber drivers, for example, in their fight to win holiday and sick pay rights. But the best way to guarantee fair pay is through strengthening unions’ ability to bargain collectively. That’s why it should be mandatory for all employers with over 250 staff to bargain collectively with recognised trade unions.
Last year, I joined low-paid McDonald’s staff demanding £10 an hour organised by the bakers’ union, and this summer I’ve been invited to join their US counterparts campaigning for $15 an hour. These sorts of wages are not unaffordable to many of these large companies. They choose to pay less because of a business model that sees the workforce as a cost to be driven down in the pursuit of ever higher profit, often linked to bloated bonuses and share options for a gilded few at the top – and subsidised with billions in publicly funded tax credits.
Last week, Lloyds bank, an institution that would probably not exist but for government support, announced a 101% increase in its profits. On the same day, the bank announced it would be sacking Last week, Lloyds bank, an institution that would probably not exist but for government support, announced a 101% increase in its profits. On the same day, the bank announced it would be sacking 3,000 workers, on top of 9,000 other redundancies..
Corporate Britain has to change if it is to work for the majority. That will also benefit the many companies that do innovate and invest in their staff and pay their taxes – and should not be undercut by the unethical practices of a few.
But it isn’t only stronger employment rights and corporate reform that will deliver decent jobs and rebuild the communities left behind by economic failure and corporate globalisation.
That’s why Labour will put public investment in infrastructure and the industries of the future centre stage, driven by a national investment bank in every region of the country. It’s only through raising investment to a new level that we can transform our economy, provide the high-skill jobs and end the race to the bottom.
And it’s by focusing relentlessly on the needs of millions of people across the country – and how to meet them – that Labour will come together for the new politics that our time demands. That’s what I will be doing in the coming weeks.
Wow! What a raving radical Trotskyite! No wonder why nobody will ever vote for him. Clearly he’s a lunatic to think that regulating business behavior and strengthening Unions will result in anything except the complete disintegration of the United Kingdom!