Future of Labour Law: progressive rights under a progressive government - Liverpool

Submitted by sglenister on Wed, 18/04/2018 - 17:11
10/05/2018 09:00

Thursday 10 May 2018

A one-day conference
Unite the Union, Liverpool
9.30am - 3.00pm

Organised by the Institute of Employment Rights and sponsored by Morrish Solicitors

About the Conference

by Dave Hawkins

The Institute of Employment Rights have for many years organised informative and thought provoking conferences. Today's conference on the future of labour law: progressive rights under a progressive government once again produced an excellent panel of speakers that gave an insight into what labour rights could look like for working people under a progressive government.

James Harrison, chairing the conference gave an excellent overview of the topic for today: The future of labour law: progressive rights under a progressive government and linked the conference to the IER's Manifesto for Labour Law.

A Ministry of labour: Carolyn Jones - Director IER

Carolyn gave an informative presentation on what a Ministry of Labour could look like. She explained that a department with a cabinet seat and the remit of representing the interests of the UK's 31-million strong workforce is essential for giving workers a voice. A Ministry of Labour was originally established in 1916 by then Prime Minister David Lloyd-George and was continued by both Conservative and Labour governments until it was abolished in the 1980s by Margaret Thatcher. Currently there is no voice at the cabinet table for the millions of workers in Britain. As well as re-establishing the department, the IER Manifesto recommends the establishment of a new Labour Court and Labour inspectorate to oversee workers' rights. "It is time for a change that would be good for workers and good for society," Carolyn said.

Download Cad's presentation

Universality or rights: Prof. Nicola Countouris - UCL

Universality of rights was Professor Countouris' topic. "UK labour law is stuck in the 70s: not the 1970s but the 1870s," he began. The free market has failed working people. An example is the abuse of zero-hour contracts. New definitions of 'workers' and 'employers' are needed giving greater worker employment protection. Currently those defined as 'workers' are eligible for fewer rights than 'employees'. All people in employment should acquire the same 'day one' rights, as in many other countries, and probation periods should be no longer than three months and not used as a waiver from unfair dismissal legislation, Professor Countouris argued. Probationary periods should only be test of the ability to carry out the job. Furthermore, the cornerstone of new rights should be negotiated through collective bargaining and not decided unilaterally through contracts of employment, as at present. "There is the need to kick start the collective agenda that has been faltering for the past 40 years," he concluded.

Download Nicola's presentation

Health & safety: Prof. Steve Tombs - Open University

Professor Tombs gave a presentation on health and safety regulation. He began by outlining why we should retain regulation as social protection. Over recent years there has been a steady decline in health & safety enforcement offers (HSE & EHO), for example in Liverpool there are currently no environmental health officers at all. The current state of affairs is completely at odds with the intent of the Robens report. Successive governments have reduced H&S regulation as a cost benefit to employers and to the detriment of worker safety. H&S needs a reversal of deregulation: "decent work is not a radical demand it is a matter of human rights," he said.

Download Steve's presentation

Trade deals & supply chains: Dr Aristea Koukiadaki - University of Manchester

Dr Koukiadaki gave a presentation on global trade deals and supply chains. The presentation, as with all the other speakers, was thought provoking and stimulated debate. The presentation described the exploitation of workers and the links to global supply chains. Moving on, the presentation outlined options for domestic regulation citing the French model as something to aim for.

Download Aristrea's presentation

Union recognition: Prof. Sonia McKay - University of West England

Professor McKay gave an excellent presentation that began by describing current union recognition legislation, and demonstrating how it is failing workers. There is a need to replace the current recognition legislation that is overly bureaucratic and too complex for workers to understand. Our current recognition is based on the flawed assumption that unions and employers are equal and, unlike most other countries, the law does not recognise unions as legitimate representatives of working people. There needs to be a simplified law with low thresholds to gain recognition.

Download Sonia's presentation

Sectoral Collective Bargaining: making it work: John Hendy QC - IER

John Hendy gave a presentation on the reinstatement of sectoral collective bargaining - one of the key goals of the IER's Manifesto. Sectoral Collective Agreements would be negotiated by Sectoral Employment Commissions (on which both employers' associations and trade unions would sit) and they would apply to all workers within a given industry, regardless of whether they were trade union members or not.

John went on to celebrate the political influence of the Manifesto, which has garnered enthusiastic support from the Green Party, SNP and Labour. Indeed, the Labour Party has said it will take the Manifesto forward as the blueprint for its future employment law policy and, indeed, its 20-point Fair Deal for Workers in its 2017 Manifesto For the many, not the few included several key recommendations of the Manifesto for Labour Law, including the reinstatement of sectoral collective bargaining, the re-establishment of a Ministry of Labour, stronger trade union rights, equal day one rights for all workers, a living wage, and the repeal of the Trade Union Act 2016.

Download John Hendy's presentation


Chaired by James Harrison, IER

Carolyn Jones, IER Director
A Ministry of Labour
Download Cad's presentation

Nicola Countouris, UCL Faculty of Laws
Universality of Rights
Download Nicola's presentation

Prof Steve Tombs, University of Liverpool
Health and Safety
Download Steve's presentation

Dr Aristea Koukiadaki, University of Manchester
Trade deals and supply chains
Download Aristrea's presentation

Prof Sonia McKay, University of West England
Union recognition
Download Sonia's presentation

John Hendy QC, IER Chair
Sectoral Collective Bargaining: making it work
Download John Hendy's presentation

Click here to download the full programme

Aristea presentation.pptx523.39 KB
Nicola presentation.pptx512.56 KB
Sonia presentation.pptx504.43 KB
Steve Tombs Presentation.pptx508.84 KB
Ministry of Labour CAD.pptx1.82 MB
SCB presentation2.pptx1.03 MB

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