Saturday, April 12, 2014

Labour's Trade Union Charter

 Ed Miliband with Durham Miners Gala in background

The ten points below are taken from pages 6 to 8 of the Labour Party Consultative Document "Work and Business" which will shape Labour's General Election Manifesto. For the procedures in use to seek to influence the development of such documents, see here.

"1. Labour will protect working people from their wages and conditions being undermined by strengthening the National Minimum Wage. The minimum wage should rise in real terms to at least catch up the ground it has lost under this Government, and Labour will investigate whether certain sectors can afford to pay more without risking jobs.

2. We will also establish ‘make work pay’ contracts, giving a tax rebate to those companies that sign up to become Living Wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament. Firms that sign up will be eligible for a tax rebate, paid for from the actual exchequer savings from higher tax receipts and lower social security payments.

3. Labour will increase transparency on pay, by requiring companies to publish the ratio of the pay of their top earner compared to the average employee, and the pay packages of the ten highest paid employees outside the boardroom. The next Labour Government will also look at how to simplify executive pay packages, and we will ensure that there is an employee representative on remuneration committees to ensure that the views of ordinary staff are heard when decisions to award top pay packages are made. We will require investment and pension fund managers to disclose how they vote on pay and all other issues, and ensure that shareholders approve remuneration packages in advance.

4. Labour will help make work pay by extending free childcare for three and four year olds from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents, paid for by an increase in the bank levy. We will ensure parents of primary school children have access to ‘wraparound’ childcare from 8am to 6pm.

5. Success will be built by the many, not the few, and the next Labour Government will take action to increase security in the workplace and protect workers’ rights, including the internationally recognised rights of freedom of association.  We will also ensure that health and safety in the workplace is a priority, and will explore ways to ensure workers have access to justice.

6.. ... the way the law is currently implemented in the UK allows employment agencies and companies, in some circumstances, to pay agency workers lower rates of pay than directly-employed staff. That simply isn’t fair, so the next Labour Government will take action to ensure agency workers are properly protected and that there is no exemption from equal treatment on pay.

7. Labour will extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to cover different sectors of the economy, such as construction, hospitality and social care, giving better protection to those workers. The next Labour Government will also look at what more can be done to ensure agricultural workers are properly protected.

8. Labour will also increase security in the workplace by acting to end the unfair practices and abuses associated with zero-hours contracts. We will ban employers from being able to require zero-hours workers to be available on the off-chance that they will be needed, stop employees from being required to work exclusively for one firm if they are on a zero-hour contract, and ban the use of zero-hours contracts when employees are in practice working regular hours.

9 ... if the current Government will not launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful practice of blacklisting in the construction industry the next Labour Government will.

10. Labour is clear about the positive role the trade union movement plays in delivering fairness, safe working conditions and supporting productivity in the workforce, and we recognise the important discussions around the role of collective bargaining in boosting pay and promoting pay equality, as well as employee representation in the workplace."

Hat Tip for photo : Left Futures.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Labour's Future

The Labour Party has published its final set of policy documents for consultation and amendment before they are adopted to shape its General Election Manifesto.

Produced by its National Policy Forum (NPF) following Labour’s policy review process, the eight papers are available on the party’s Your Britain website .

The individual documents can be accessed directly from these links:

1. Stability and Prosperity Policy  : on the economy — from growth and the economic recovery, to public spending, taxation and how to reduce the deficit in a fair way.
2. Work and Business : on how the UK can compete in a global economy, including support for business, rights at work, fair pay and the future of pensions.
3. Living Standards and Sustainability : issues affecting the quality of life in Britain, the cost of living, and our environment. Key topics include energy, climate change, food, rural affairs and transport.
4. Stronger, Safer Communities : how we rebuild our communities and create a society in which everyone plays their part — including community safety, housing, local government and immigration.
5. Education and Children : childcare plans, and thinking on young people’s wellbeing and learning — from early years through to further and higher education and apprenticeships.
6. Health and Care : plans for the NHS, health and social care — and how to bring about a new focus on whole person care.
7. Better Politics : how to build a new form of politics — looking at engagement, equality, civil society and the change of our political system.
8. Britain’s Global Role : Britain’s role within the global community — including foreign policy, international development and defence.

These policy documents can be read online, or downloaded in pdf format.

Included in these are proposals on (1) tackling climate change, (2) re-distribution from the wealthy to the poor, (3) overcoming energy price rips offs, (4) providing decent housing and other communal facilities, (5) educational openings for under-achievers (including second chance education), (6) an integrated health service, (7) devolution, (8) improving electoral registration to tackle the missing six and a half million voters, (9) third world aid and development, including international pressures for the use of the Robin Hood Tax, and (10) – Len McCluskey please note – what could be called a ten point Trade Union Charter in a section of the document “Work and Business”.

I am not claiming that these proposals (and those surrounding them) are perfect. But they do open up avenues for clarification and development. It is a different agenda from anything we got in the Blair-Brown years. What is needed is that it should all be pushed to the front of the political agenda. It will be difficult to start gaining support for a mainly unheard of programme just in the four weeks run-up to a General Election.

Individual members of the Labour Party can put forward their own proposals via the above website. See here to trace my own recent submission dated 4th April.

Every Constituency Labour Party is entitled to propose up to 10 textual amendments before the deadline on 13 June, NPF members will then choose which proposals to adopt at a meeting in July. It is, therefore,  a good idea to hold a constituency meeting soon with a NPF representative present and press them to pursue the Constituency's  proposals.

The final papers drawn from the consultations will then be debated and adopted by Labour’s annual conference in September, and will shape official party policy for the 2015 general election.

Some of my favourite extracts from the eight consultative documents are given below. They are proposals which need to be defended and extended.

1. Stability and Prosperity

Page 6, lines 29 to 31 and page 4, lines 4 to 16. “Labour is committed to tackling climate change...(we) will take advantage of the opportunities that have arisen from the low-carbon economy and green industries”... “the next Labour Government will break up the banks so that ordinary retail banking is completely separate from riskier investment banking...will also tackle excessive pay in our banking system...Labour has proposed a repeat of the bank bonus tax, using funds raised to provide a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee for young people. Labour will also require banks to publish the numbers of employees earning more than £1 million...we also need a legally enforced Code of Conduct for bankers so that those who act recklessly can be struck off.”

2. Work and Business

Page 6, lines 27 to 30 and page 7, lines 1 and 2, plus 13 to 15. “Labour will protect working people from their wages being undermined by strengthening the National Minimum Wage. The minimum wage should rise in real terms to at least catch up the ground it has lost under this Government and Labour will investigate whether certain sectors can afford to pay a tax rebate to those companies that sign up to become Living Wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament...Labour will increase transparency on pay, by requiring companies to publish the ratio of the pay of their top earner compared to the average employee, and the pay packages of the ten highest employees outside the boardroom...we will ensure that there is an employee representative on remuneration committees...”

3. Living Standards and Sustainability

Page 7, lines 21 to 40. “Labour will break the stranglehold of the 'Big Six' energy companies by ring-fencing their generation and supply businesses, and forcing them to buy and sell their energy through an open exchange. We will also require energy companies to open up their books and provide information on their trading activities and their retail and generation businesses. This will make the market more transparent and competitive, and will open it up to alternative forms of ownership and generation, such as community energy...we will freeze energy prices until 2017, saving the average household £120...Labour will support community energy, and explore the huge potential for individuals and communities to create and save energy through community ownership and collective consumer action.”

4. Stronger, Safer Communities

Page 4, lines 20 to 40 and page 5, lines 43 and 46. “The next Labour Government will build at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020, initially focusing in developing brownfield sites...We will support local authorities who want to build social homes, and encourage those who are not building to do so...Labour will set about building the next generation of new towns and garden cities.”... “Many letting agents adopt unscrupulous methods...Labour will change this by regulating letting agents and bring an end to rip-off fees and charges”.

5. Education and Children

Page 5, lines 24 to 26 and page 6, lines 12 to 14. “Labour will ensure that all young people continue English and Maths to18 and...we will introduce a new gold standard Technical Baccalaureate for young people, acting as a stepping stone into an apprenticeship, further study or Technical Education...Labour...will deliver a radical devolution of power from Whitehall...(to) empower local communities to have a greater say about education in their area”. Page 9. lines 14 to 18. “Labour also believes in second chances for those who could not complete their education the first time round. Changes to tuition fees have led to a sharp fall in university applications from part-time and mature students. The economic downturn is a reminder that many people need support to manage economic and labour market change, and it is vital that we ensure there are retraining and lifelong learning options for those who need them”

6. Health and Care

Page 5, lines 14 to 23. “the next Labour Government will integrate health and social care services into a system of 'whole person care'. This approach will bring together three separate, fragmented services into a single service co-ordinating all of a person's needs – physical, mental and social – with preventing illness and promoting good health at its heart. Whole-person care will enable us to put people of all ages at the centre of the health and care system in a way that has never been done before; seeing the whole person, and organising services around the needs of people and their communities. The concept of whole-person care has relevance across all stages of life, from the child with complex needs, the working age adult with disabilities through to the older person. For example, from the very start, our maternity services, health visitors and children's centres can work closely together to improve the outcomes for children and parents, particularly those from disadvantaged groups.”

7. Better Politics

Page 1, lines 22 and 23; page 7, lines 42 to 44 and lines 6 and 7. “By handing power and responsibility down from Whitehall to communities, we can empower people to solve problems themselves...There is a huge well of talent, ability, ideas and passion in every community. Devolution is the best way to unleash these things in the interests of the places we cherish...Labour will examine further reform of the devolved settlements across the UK”.

Page 4, lines 12 and 13; page 6, lines 38 and 39. “Labour will give a voice to young people by lowering the voting age to 16 for all UK elections. While we improve citizenship and political education, we will give young people the opportunity to engage in democracy...When the franchise is extended to 16 year olds, schools, as well as colleges and universities, could handle voter registration.”

8. Britain's Global Role

Page 45, line 36. “Labour believes that Britain's national interest lies in remaining at the heart of a reformed EU.” Page 8, lines 15 to 18, and 44 and 45. “Labour will deliver reform from within the EU, not exit from it. We want to see tough new budget discipline with stronger independent audit, a balanced growth plan, a new Growth Commissioner and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy...and will ensure the UK does not opt out of its Social Europe obligations”. Page 10, line 25 to 34. “With the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals expiring in 2015 ...Labour is committed to supporting a post-2015 development agenda that seeks to eradicate global poverty, promote sustainability, and end aid dependency by 2030. We believe that this can only be achieved through a rights-based agenda...decent jobs and social protection, access to universal heath and social care, universal access to basic utilities, quality primary and secondary education, protection of ecosystems and biodiversity, basic food security and eradication of hunger, women's empowerment and gender equality, freedom from violence and fear of violence, good governance and active and responsible citizenship.” Page 11, lines 2 and 3. “Labour is in favour of an international transaction tax – one that is agreed by all the world's financial centres”.