Great Britain

Labour says it would bring back industry-wide collective bargaining for wages

A Labour government would bring back binding industry-wide agreements governing workers' wages, the party's deputy leader is to announce.

Opening the party's annual conference in Brighton on Saturday Angela Rayner will commit the party to introducing "Fair Pay Agreements" – staring with the social care sector.

The announcement, strongly welcomed by trade unions, echoes a commitment in the party's 2017 and 2019 manifestos under Jeremy Corbyn.

The agreements would be introduced alongside a raft of new employment rights including an immediate increase in the minimum wage to £10 for all workers, rights for all workers in the gig economy, and high statutory sick pay.

The party is also promising to ban one-sided zero hours contracts, improve enforcement, introduce mandatory ethnic minority pay gap, and give all workers the right to flexible working and to "switch off" in the evening.

Collective bargaining agreements across sectors set minimum standards for wages and conditions that companies in that industry must follow.

Across Europe an average of around 60 per cent of workers are covered by such agreements, with British workers once enjoying a similar level of coverage.

But since the 1980s the UK has become an outlier and the number of workers covered by such broad collective agreements has plummeted to between just 20 and 30 per cent.

Countries including France, Belgium, Austria and Finland all have over 90 per cent of workers covered by such agreements. In German the figure is 59 per cent, Spain 69 per cent, and the Netherlands 84 per cent.

“Working people don’t want a hand out from a Minister sat in Whitehall – workers want the power to stand up for themselves and demand their fair share and a better deal," Angela Rayner will say.

“The best way to improve the lot of working people is collectively, achieving more by the strength of our common endeavour than we achieve alone.

“So the next Labour government will bring together representatives of workers and employers to agree Fair Pay Agreements that will apply to every worker in each sector, starting in social care. Fair Pay Agreements will drive up pay, improve conditions in the workplace and stop bad bosses from exploiting their workers and driving down pay and standards for everyone.

“When Labour is in government there won’t just be a former social care worker and shop steward in the office of Deputy Prime Minister, working people will have a seat at the Cabinet table and their voices will be heard. The next Labour government will end poverty wages and insecure work for good.”

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the agreements would "be a game-changer for millions of working families"

She added: “Giving workers and their unions more power to bargain collectively is the best way to improve pay and working conditions across Britain.

“These much-needed proposals are about making sure that hard work pays off for everyone.”

Andy McDonald, Labour’s Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary, said: “Instead of an employment model that delivers for working people the Conservatives have ushered in one that means a race to the bottom on the backs of working people.

“Outsourcing, zero-hours contracts and agency work drive down pay, standards and conditions across our whole economy for everyone.

“It is high time that the key workers who got us through this crisis – and all working people – are given the dignity and security at work that they deserve.”

The party’s left wing also welcomed the policy. Callum Bell, Momentum vice chair, said: "Sectoral collective bargaining would allow working people to shift the balance of power in the workplace back in our favour. These are kind of policies which could start to transform our economy to benefit ordinary workers rather than billionaire elites. If only policy like this was going to be the focal point of conference, rather than the leadership's fumbling attempts at anti-democratic rule changes."

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