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A trade union agenda for Labour

1280px-Durham_Miners_Gala_2008_Old_Elvet_BridgeIt’s no mystery why all the economic indicators point to the economy emerging from the recession and yet wages are continuing to fall behind inflation. The post-recession economy that is being created is based upon reinforcing the distribution of power between capital and labour that has been imposed upon our society since the 1980s.

Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws were intended to ensure that the income generated within our economy poured into the hands of shareholders and company executives while workers’ wages stagnated. The undermining of the ability of trade unions to negotiate effectively on behalf of their members has meant that for three decades the proportion of wealth generated within our economy has grown dramatically for capital but declined for labour.
The return of a Labour Government provides the opportunity to redress this latest history of exploitation. If the next Labour Government is to stand any chance of tackling the grotesque inequalities of present day Britain, it needs a trade union agenda.

This is a simple trade union plan for Labour.

1. A Living Wage not a Minimum Wage. The present level of the minimum wage is in reality a poverty wage. Labour should replace the minimum wage with a Living Wage, set at £10 an hour.

2. A Maximum Pay Ratio to Tackle Inequality. Top company executives are paid over 160 times the level of the average pay of their employees. Labour should introduce a statutory pay ratio so that the pay of the highest earner in a company is no more than 20 times the average pay of the company’s employees.

3. Annual Equality Audits. Women’s pay still lags behind men’s despite 30 years of equality laws. Annual equality audits should be a requirement for companies and public sector employers.

4. Outlawing Zero Hours Contracts. The vast expansion of zero hours’ contracts has introduced a modern day form of the 19th century practice of the workers standing in line to be picked for work by employers. Labour should outlaw this demeaning form of exploitation.

5. Restoring Rights at Work. Exercising the basic right to strike has been undermined by government interference in trade union decision-making procedures. Labour should legislate to enable trade unionists to ballot online and at the workplace. Labour’s past promise to restore the right to strike to the POA should be implemented.

6. Free Access to Justice at Work. Charges to access employment tribunals should be scrapped and cuts in legal aid reversed.

7. Making Blacklisting a Criminal Offence. The scale of blacklisting has been exposed but employers have walked away scot free. Making blacklisting a criminal offence and introducing a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers funded by the blacklisting companies would help in righting this wrong. Directors of companies found guilty of blacklisting should also be barred from holding directorships in future.

8. Democracy at Work. Workers create the wealth of any enterprise and yet are treated like chattels with no say over their lives at work. Trade union representation on company and employing bodies boards should be introduced as a basic democratic right.

9. The Right to Co-operatise. Even the Coalition has advocated the benefits of mutuals and John Lewis has become the icon of mutualisation. Let’s take them at their word and let Labour propose legislation which will enable workers in any company to vote to mutualise their company.

10. Ending and Reversing Privatisation. Privatisation has allowed speculators to profit obscenely from the wage cuts imposed on the workers of the services they have taken over and price rises for their customers. Labour should end all privatisation and commence the process of reversing privatisation by bringing rail and Royal Mail back into public ownership and control.

11. Making Work Safe. An average of 140 deaths a year at work even on the Government’s minimal estimate is intolerable. Labour must restore the cuts made by the Coalition in the Health and Safety Executive and introduce a new comprehensive Health and Safety Act that reverses the retrograde legislation introduced by the Coalition which has confused, obscured and narrowed the coverage of the existing health and safety law.

This article first appeared in the Labour Representation Committee’s TUC special

CC BYImage credit: Durham Miners Gala 2008 Old Elvert Bridge by Paul Simpson


  1. jeffrey davies says:

    but will they there are far to msany blairites left they want lthe unions monies but not the way jeff3

  2. Robert says:

    John yes totally agree but sadly we have no labour party, this one nation Progress party which is now a power within labour.

    Progress is the New Labour pressure group which aims to promote a radical and progressive politics for the 21st century. Founded in 1996, we are an independent organisation of Labour party members.

    Through our national and regional events and regular publications, we seek to promote open debate and discussion of progressive ideas and policies.

    Progress is chaired by John Woodcock MP. Our vice-chairs are Jenny Chapman MP, Stephen Doughty MP, Julie Elliott MP, Tristram Hunt MP, Dan Jarvis MP, Liz Kendall MP, Seema Malhotra MP, Alison McGovern MP, Toby Perkins MP, Lucy Powell MP, Steve Reed MP and Jonathan Reynolds MP. Progress’ honorary president is Stephen Twigg MP. Progress has an elected strategy board representing Progress members, Labour councillors and parliamentarians.

    Then you have Murphy Reeves and Miliband Byrnes and a few others.

    This is your problem the left have 14 maybe 15 members who can be called to the left, then you have the rest who are to the right or as we all know them as Tory Lite.

    I have been a member of labour for a long time I called it a day in 2010 I see my self as being to the left, disabled and now sick, what does labour see me as Scrounger because in 2010 that is what Labour office told me. we have enough sick and disabled scroungers .

    The labour party your now a member of is one of the biggest threats to the Unions the party takes the cash but has not been a left leaning party for a long time the Unions are now actually giving cash to the right wing of the labour party as we all saw in the Falkirk mess.

    Your points are great I would go along with that Miliband would faint and need his nappy changing.

    Labour is miles away from even thinking of the Living wage because big business would be hurt and not like Miliband for doing that nasty thing to them.

  3. John Reid says:

    can’t fualt this
    just to confirm 5. POA prison officers,? if so it was Straw for all his faults that wornlgy itnroduced that

    4 and 6 need clarification as there’ll always be ways bosses can find around techinicalities, same as zero hour contracts,they’re already introducing them for teachers and police staff!

    robert, have to disagree, even Progress i believe wouldn’t try to block this

    Jeff davies,a s 70% of the money from the 1997 election wasn’t from unions and labour regularly wastes a third of its money,the Blairites don’t want union money that badly.

    1. jeffrey davies says:

      then the unions need to put their oen candidates forward has most of this party has we now isnt a true labour party but sadly who do you vote for has its more the same i cant see a way forward but you state the monies from the election 1997 then this must haver been tory money has blair was maggies product put into lanour to take em to the tory lite whot ever i cannot in all my days say to my friends vote for them has untill the tb of this party go back to their tory party jeff3

      1. John Reid says:

        O.k but isn’t it a case of saying kick out the Blairites(there’s very few left) and then the left who dint vote labour any more will, how many people fall into this category, very few I reckon, there’s probably more Blairites ms till in the ranks, than the hard left who don’t vote,

        Personally I’m glad my union hasn’t been affiliated in the last 15 years

        1. jeffrey davies says:

          ah but then we mught have not gone down this path were the banksters lost that money has the unions would have pressed to keep that door shut not open for this but sadly we will never now has from maggies day shes made greed the order of the day and no matter whot she ruined us but then shes the tory idol youl have to excuss my english nowasays has i lost whot i learnt sadly has one sees through my posts but still can write someway jef

  4. David Pavett says:

    John McDonnell says “If the next Labour Government is to stand any chance of tackling the grotesque inequalities of present day Britain, it needs a trade union agenda.”

    Of course it does but is there the slightest chance that it will adopt such an agenda? Is there even a dim prospect that this would be backed by Labour’s business team i.e. by such people as Chukka Umunna and Lord Adonis?

    “Labour should introduce a statutory pay ratio so that the pay of the highest earner in a company is no more than 20 times the average pay of the company’s employees.”

    Does anyone seriously believe that this could even be discussed by a Labour Cabinet? I can’t imagine that John McDonnell does.

    The problem is that it is not only Labour which will not push a trade union agenda but the trade unions themselves the leaders of which were prepared to do deals with Labour leaders to block anti-austerity policies at the recent NPF and therefore at Labour Conference too.

    Winning Labour to genuinely democratic and pro-worker policies, if it is possible, will have to start a long way down in the Party grass roots but is there the will or the interest in that any more? I hope that there is but I wish that I could see more signs of it. Most of the Labour activists I know just accept that they have no real say in Party policy and that all the Policy Reviews and NPF debates will produce the results that Party leaders want irrespective of what members think.

  5. Duncan says:

    Yes, I agree. Labour should adopt the policies of the Green Party.

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