Shadow chancellor John McDonnell outlined Labour’s commitments to reduce the average working week to 32 hours within a decade and eliminate in-work poverty within a Labour government’s first term, during his speech to the party conference today (23 September).
McDonnell also hinted at scrapping Universal Credit system at a fringe event, yesterday evening, a move Unite has been campaigning for.
Promising to “lay the foundations of a new society”, John McDonnell pledged a three-pronged approach to transforming the economy: expanding free universal public services, driving up wages and driving down living costs, and strengthening the social security system.
Reducing the working week
McDonnell committed Labour to reducing the working week by setting up an independent Working Time Commission, based on the Low Pay Commission, to recommend increases in minimum holiday entitlements, and rolling out collective bargaining to enable trade unions and employers to negotiate how to meet the target in each sector.
Speaking today, McDonnell said, “As society got richer, we could spend fewer hours at work. But in recent decades progress has stalled and since the 1980s the link between increasing productivity and expanding free time has been broken. It’s time to put that right.
“So I can tell you today that the next Labour government will reduce the average full time working week to 32 hours within a decade. A shorter working week with no loss of pay. We’ll end the opt-out from the European Working Time Directive. As we roll out sectoral collective bargaining, we’ll include negotiations over working hours.
“We’ll require working hours to be included in the legally binding sectoral agreements between employers and trade unions. This will allow unions and employers to decide together how best to reduce hours for their sector. And we’ll set up a Working Time Commission with the power to recommend to government on increasing statutory leave entitlements as quickly as possible without increasing unemployment.”
McDonnell also pledged to eliminate the “modern evil” of in-work poverty.
He told conference, “Labour has traditionally been committed to full employment. We have always believed that getting a job should be a means to lift yourself out of poverty. But under the Tories the link between work and escaping poverty has been broken. So I commit today that within our first term of office Labour will end in-work poverty.”
At fringe event yesterday evening, the shadow chancellor also hinted that a Labour government would scrap Universal Credit, saying that the party must “get rid of bloody Universal Credit”.
Unite is campaigning for the hated all-in-one benefit reform to be scrapped and launched its ‘Not fit for purpose’ report, which lays bare the misery of Universal Credit, at a packed conference fringe today.