Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outlined a truly transformative vision of a future for working people under a Labour government in his speech at TUC conference on Tuesday (September 10).
As Corbyn pledged to lead the fight against a no-deal Brexit, he also spelled out precisely what the party in power would do to bring about “change that gives power to the true wealth creators – the workers” in what he called “the biggest extension of rights for workers that our country has ever seen”.
Sectoral bargaining and trade union rights
This will include establishing a Ministry of Employment Rights, whose core work will be rolling out collective bargaining across the economy sector by sector.
“It’s a system they have in many of the most successful economies around the world,” Corbyn said.
“It prevents undercutting on wages, fosters workplace stability and encourages businesses to invest in productivity.”
“It’s only by acting together, collectively, that workers can really make their voice heard.”
Corbyn pledged that in his first 100 days of Labour taking office, they would repeal the Tory Trade Union Act and empower unions to continue doing their work to defend workers. Trade unions would be granted the right of entry into all workplaces to organise and represent their members, and trade union members would also be allowed to make their voices heard more easily, through electronic and workplace balloting.
But the Labour leader highlighted that the government too must play a bigger role in the defending workers – specifically in ensuring employment laws are enforced.
“Too many employers are getting away with flouting laws,” he said. “Nearly half a million people are still being paid less than the minimum wage.
“We’ll put a stop to that. We’ll create a Workers Protection Agency with real teeth, including the power to enter workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf.
“If you’re a worker with a boss who makes you work extra hours for no pay or forces you into dangerous situations, you deserve a government that’s on your side and ready to step in to support you.”
Among other enhanced rights hinted by Corbyn in his speech, and later spelled out in an address by shadow labour minister Laura Pidcock, is ending in one fell swoop bogus-self employment by creating only two employment categories – workers and those who are genuinely self-employed.
A future Labour government will also introduce a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing, and will give all workers the right to flexible working, and ensure employers comply with their requests.
A statutory Real Living Wage will be implemented and would be set at £10 an hour by 2020 for all workers 16 and older. Unpaid internships would be banned, as would zero-hours contracts.
Corbyn quoted the Financial Times, which accused Labour of being “determined to shift power away from bosses and landlords to workers and tenants”.
“Well there has been no shortage of rather unkind reporting about our party over the last few years, but this time they’ve got it absolutely right,” he said.
Empowering the people
The Labour leader went on to highlight other policy priorities of the party, including putting workers on company boards and giving the workforce a 10 per cent stake in large companies, which would pay a dividend of as much as £500 each year to each employee.
“And we will give tenants more rights including caps on rent rises,” he said. “And that principle of empowering people doesn’t just apply to the workplace.
“We’ll bring rail, mail, water and the national grid into public ownership, so the essential utilities that people rely on are run by and for the public, not just shareholders.”
Corbyn pledged too to work with trade unions to kick start a Green Industrial Revolution, which would create hundreds of thousands of highly skilled, well-paid jobs in renewable energy and green technologies.
“And we will locate these new industries in parts of the country that have been held back by successive governments that have focused on the richest in the City of London,” he said.
Closing his speech to thundering applause, Corbyn said, “the establishment will come after us with all they’ve got, because they know we’re not afraid to take them on”.
“We’re creating a society of hope and inclusion, not poverty and division.”
Commenting on Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, which prompted a standing ovation, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said, “Corbyn hit the nail on the head – change is long overdue and it is coming. At a time of turmoil and uncertainty, created by this out-of-control Tory government, he gets straight to the point.”
“Corbyn’s Labour offers responsible government, intent on tackling the deep set problems of this country, long ignored by governments of all creeds,” he added. “He will head a government that will reset our country so that no one lives in fear of insecurity or poverty, where the abuses of the rich are ended, and build a country in which we can genuinely hope for a better future for our children.”
When the election comes, there will be a choice before this country – decency and fairness with Jeremy Corbyn, or greed and chaos with Johnson.”