She was speaking at the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) and Campaign for Trade Union Freedom (CTUF) fringe event at the Labour Party Conference, where she was joined on stage by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, IER Chair John Hendy QC and Professor Keith Ewing, President of the IER.
Rebecca Long-Bailey welcomed the IER’s Manifesto for Labour Law – 25 recommendations for the reform drafted by 15 of the UK’s top lawyers and academics – on which some of the Labour Party’s manifesto promises were based.
She particularly pointed to the IER proposals to create a universal employment status that provides day one rights for all workers, the re-establishment of a Ministry of Labour, and the abolition of the Trade Union Act, which she vowed to take forward.
In addition, she stated that Labour will create a new legal expert commission on employment status, explaining that reforms like these are desperately needed because in today’s precarious labour market, only the secure feel able to take risks.
This comes after Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said in a statement for the IER/CTUF Fringe at TUC Congress last week that the Manifesto for Labour Law is being taken forward by the Labour Party as “the basis for our implementation manual in this field”.
He also confirmed that Labour is currently working on detailed plans for a new Ministry of Labour, which he said “will be charged with spearheading the legislative programme to establish firm employment rights once again in this country and the return of effective collective bargaining”.
At yesterday’s fringe event, Professor Keith Ewing welcomed Rebecca Long-Bailey’s plans for employment law, stating that the UK needs the Three R’s: Repeal the Trade Union Act; Reintegrate workers’ voice through union strength; and Rights from day one. He also reiterated the overarching aim of the Manifesto for Labour Law, which is to set standards across entire industries and throughout the economy by reinstating sectoral collective bargaining.
John Hendy QC picked up on this theme, reminding delegates that sectoral collective bargaining is key to redress the imbalance of power between employers and workers, ensure that workers have a democratic voice within their workplace, and prevent employers from exploiting migrant labour (which forces standards down for both migrant workers and those born in this country).
One of the main purposes of collective bargaining is to ensure that individual workers do not have to resort to the law to enforce their own rights, he said, but he added that collective agreements should cover a broad spectrum of issues including training, apprenticeships and unfair dismissal.
Len McCluskey said he was delighted by what he had heard at Conference and vowed that Unite will continue to work in both industrial and political arenas to ensure workers have stronger protections. However, he warned that the draconian anti-trade union legislation brought in by the Trade Union Act 2016 risks pushing unions outside of the law in order to protect their members. He called for secure workplace ballots to prevent unions from being forced in this direction.
He concluded by thanking the IER for their work in developing a progressive agenda for labour law, and welcomed the proposal for a Ministry of Labour, which he said will give workers a voice in Westminster.
Ian Lavery, Labour Party Chair, also spoke briefly at the event to show his support for the Manifesto for Labour Law. He said years of fighting for a better world has now been reflected in his party’s 20-point plan for workers’ rights, which was informed by the IER’s Manifesto.
Labour Party support for our Manifesto