Finance

Starmer to pledge new deal for UK workers under a Labour government

Labour Party UK updates

Sir Keir Starmer will promise a “New Deal for Workers” on Tuesday including a £10 minimum wage, a “right to work flexibly” and a ban on some controversial workplace practices under a future Labour government in the UK.

The leader of the main opposition party will use his speech at the annual Trades Union Congress to promise full rights and protections from day one in a job to all workers — including holiday pay, parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal.

Starmer will say that the commitment to strengthen employment rights would “reflect changes to the economy and the reality of modern working”.

The pledges include a ban on “fire and rehire”, an end to zero-hours contracts and the right to work flexibly and request shifts that fit around family life.

The proposed rise in the minimum wage to £10 for those aged over 23 — from £8.91 at present — would mean a pay rise of £2,500 a year for a carer on the minimum wage, according to Labour.

An immediate adoption of a £10 wage floor would represent a hefty increase compared with government policy to raise the main adult rate of the national living wage to two-thirds of median earnings by 2024. On the current trajectory, the Low Pay Commission said in April that its best estimate was for the main hourly rate to rise to £9.42 next year and exceed £10 only in 2024.

Some Tory strategists are becoming concerned about a looming “cost of living crisis” facing workers in the UK, caused by rising inflation, higher gas bills and removing the furlough job support scheme.

Starmer will say that working families face a “double whammy” from the imminent £1,040 cut to universal credit next month and last week’s increase in National Insurance.

“Ensuring good-quality secure work, underpinned with employment rights fit for the reality of modern working, is not only good for employees, but it’s good for business, and is part of getting our economy firing on all cylinders,” he will say.

“Too many people in Britain spend their lives worrying about how many hours they’ll be given next week, what will happen if they need to attend a medical appointment, or how they’ll pay the bills if they fall ill.”

Some of Starmer’s promises were in Labour’s 2019 election manifesto when his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn was leader. But the pledge on banning “fire and rehire” is new, reflecting a widespread adoption of the practice by some large employers during the pandemic.

Unions claim that tens of thousands of people have been sacked then offered new, less generous, terms and conditions.

The government said it was “fully committed to protecting and enhancing workers’ rights” and that it was “ridiculous” to suggest otherwise. It said it had made it clear that the practice of firing and rehiring was “unacceptable” and added that the 2019 Conservative party’s election manifesto contained a “clear commitment to consulting on making flexible working the default”.

TUC leader Frances O’Grady called for pay rises to compensate for ‘decades of real wage cuts’ © Jess Hurd

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, used her own speech on Monday to the online conference to call for a pay rise to compensate for “decades of real wage cuts”.

She argued that pay rises were crucial for the government’s “levelling-up” agenda to boost left-behind parts of the country.

O’Grady suggested the offer of better wages and conditions could help fix the crisis in the logistics industry because of a shortage of lorry drivers. “Here’s a novel idea — let’s make the industry deliver decent conditions, direct employment and a proper pay rise.”

Additional reporting by Delphine Strauss

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