A King’s Speech for the people

Unite calls on government to set out a plan for jobs and recovery

Reading time: 5 min

A plan for steel, binding employment rights and an end to energy rip-offs should form the centrepiece of next week’s King’s Speech, Unite has said.

The call comes as ministers finalise their plans – that will be laid out on Tuesday 7 November – for what will be the final legislative programme before the next general election.

As the UK steel industry lurches from crisis to crisis, Unite has developed a positive programme for public ownership and investment in this strategic asset as part of its Workers’ Plan for Steel campaign.

The campaign is demanding that politicians commit to four pledges for steel. These include changing procurement rules to let UK public contracts use 100% UK steel — a measure that would alone create 8,000 jobs – as well as public investment for a phased steelworkers’ transition plan to green steel with no loss of jobs.

The Workers’ Plan for Steel also calls on the government to tackle energy prices by bringing in electricity price caps and public ownership of the grid to make the steel industry even more competitive. Crucially, any public investment in steel must come with solid job guarantees.

The union’s view has been gaining traction – last week, Unite organisers held a steel ‘day of action’ in major steel towns such as Scunthorpe, Port Talbot and Sheffield which drew scores of people from their local communities and highlighted rising anger with the government among these communities for its failure to protect a vital foundation industry.

Meanwhile, Unite has led sustained pressure for an end to sharp employment practices, including fire and rehire and exploitative zero-hours contracts. It is calling for a comprehensive Employment Bill to protect all employees from abuse.

Finally, the union is pressing for an end to profiteering in the energy sector, with tough price regulation and an end to private sector and overseas control of our critical energy assets.

Unite research has shown that a publicly run energy network could use the massive profits of Britain’s energy giants to reduce household bills and fund the transition to a green future with secure jobs. The report also showed the potential costs and savings of taking public control of the entire UK energy network – including North Sea oil and gas production, electricity generation, transmission and distribution networks, and supply companies.

A poll commissioned by Unite earlier this year also revealed that a significant majority of voters living in Red Wall seats back public ownership of the UK’s energy system.

Looking ahead to the King’s Speech, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Britain is a two-trillion pound plus economy, and the sixth richest economy in the world: now is the time for this government to show that workers and communities matter.

“Unite has been developing a positive programme to address the things that mean most to workers.

“Laws to ensure workers cannot be thrown on the scrapheap through AI, fire and rehire or similar dodgy practices, are urgently needed alongside ways to ensure the workers’ voice is heard through collective bargaining,” she added.

“We also need to see the public ownership play a role in securing our critical national assets – like steel-making – for the long term, and in putting a stop to the rampant greed that has been allowed to let rip in the energy sector.

“This King’s Speech should be a King’s Speech for everyday people. Measures that create a secure and positive future for workers and their families – support for this is something which Unite’s own polling bears out.”

Stay tuned on UniteLive tomorrow for full coverage of the King’s Speech.

By Barckley Sumner