The spin was clear. Measures in the Queen’s Speech will “protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU,” the government claimed, “making Britain the best place in the world to work.” But what has been promised will not deliver this.
We know there’s a real need for change in Britain’s world of work. 3.7 million people are in insecure jobs, including zero hours contracts that leave them not knowing how much work they’ll have from one week to the next. Two million people are missing out on holiday pay. And wages are still below their pre-crisis peak.
We know what the solutions are too. A ban on zero hours contracts, with payments for cancelled shifts; workers’ rights from day one on the job; more investment in enforcement; and better rights for trade unions to negotiate the pay and conditions workers deserve.
Today’s Queen’s Speech promised us none of this. Instead we got vague commitments and reheated promises.
It’s not just the lack of ambition, though. Boris Johnson has said he wants to win the trust of working-class voters. But his first act is to attack working class institutions.
Like every majority Conservative government since 1979, this one has launched an attack on trade unions. In this case the government wants to place huge limits on rail workers’ right to strike.
Nobody wants to go on strike. But the right to strike is vital to defend workers’ rights when the employer won’t compromise.
These plans will make it hard for transport workers to protect their jobs, pay and working conditions. And it’s a sign that the government’s pledge to ‘”protect and enhance workers’ rights” doesn’t look worth the paper it’s written on.
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