Angela Eagle writes for Unions21 on Fair Work
The right to be treated fairly at work is the essential right of every worker in Britain today. It means being paid properly, respected by your employer and having rights to sick pay holidays and to health and safety protections that are properly enforced.
It was the Labour movement that first fought for basic rights for workers, and Labour in government delivered substantial change – a national minimum wage, enhanced health and safety laws and important protections against discrimination in pay and the provision of goods and services. We should be proud of our collective record, whilst being very aware of the work that is yet to be done.
Workers’ rights are already coming under sustained attack from this Tory government with the publication of their partisan and oppressive anti trade union Bill.
I’ve been vocal in opposing this. As Deputy Leader I would make sure that Labour stands up for workers and the trades unions that represent them. Tory attacks on collective bargaining and on rights at work must be resisted. And the Tory’s desperate attempt to reincarnate themselves as some kind of workers’ party must be exposed for the sham that it is. A government that was serious about representing workers and ensuring they’re treated fairly would work with trades unions, not try to use the law to weaken them.
Fair work must mean fair pay. Everyone who goes out to work should expect to be paid enough to live on as a result. I have always backed a living wage as something we should aspire to crested and I have been forthright in exposing the Tories’ cynical rebranding of the minimum wage as a ‘national living wage’ for the sham it is. They have proposed a rebranded minimum wage as a smokescreen to hide their attack on tax credits which will leave millions of working people worse off.
As Deputy Leader I would lead the fight for all workers to be paid a proper living wage – one which takes tax and benefits changes into account. We need to crack down on employers who don’t pay the minimum wage with better enforcement and penalties which deter this behaviour – this is not just bad employment practice, it is illegal. And we need to end the practice whereby care workers in particular aren’t paid for essential travel between jobs – this is completely unjust and it hits some of the lowest paid people the hardest. Instead all we have seen from this Government is the introduction of tribunal fees which have virtually ended the enforcement of employment law.
The right to in-work training is important. I’m proud that Labour in government instigated a culture of life-long learning, something that the coalition government seriously undermined opportunities at work with a sustained attack on adult education.
I believe we should have much stronger sector skills training opportunities and we should look to strengthen not weaken collective bargaining. Partnership at work improves productivity. Our globalised economy poses a challenge to many of our industries that can only be met with increased skills and productivity. Instead of cutting the budgets of technical colleges, the government should invest in the skills and infrastructure that will ensure British workers continue to compete in a global marketplace.