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Boris Johnson holds up the 2019 Conservative manifesto
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Getty/Dan Kitwood

The Conservative manifesto doesn’t deliver for working families - here's why

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There’s no plan to get wages rising for everyone, no ban on zero-hours contracts, and no end to austerity in our public services.

Public services are crumbling. Wages have stood still but the cost of living keeps rising. And too often the only jobs available are insecure or temp jobs on low pay.

Working-class families have had enough. At this election we want better – a country where our kids can get on.

We’ve asked all politicians to put working families first at this election. But the Conservative manifesto launched today doesn’t meet our tests. Here’s why.

1. There’s no plan to get wages rising for everyone, not just the top earners

Conservative governments have presided over the longest wage squeeze for 200 years. Today, five million people earn less than a living wage. Yet the Conservatives don’t have a plan to get wages rising for everyone.

• The Conservatives have re-announced a plan to raise the minimum wage by 2025. But struggling households need help now, not promises of jam tomorrow.

• The manifesto promises to help working families by raising the national insurance threshold to £9,500. Our research shows that even taking this into account, the tax and benefit reforms introduced by coalition and Conservative governments will make the bottom fifth of households £517 poorer in 2021 than they were at the start of the decade. By contrast, the top fifth will be £147 a year better off than in 2010.

• Rather than boosting the right for workers to negotiate fair pay rises for everybody, the Tories want to suppress the democratic right to strike for rail workers.

• The manifestos says the Conservatives will ‘improve incentives to attack the problem of excessive executive pay’. It doesn’t say how or when it will do that. Perhaps that’s not surprising when we’ve recently seen top pay soaring under Conservative government.

• Shockingly, the manifesto doesn’t even mention the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps that still leave working people missing out on fair pay – let alone set out a plan to tackle them.

2. The Conservatives won’t ban zero hours contracts, and don’t have a plan for better jobs

Too many people in the UK today can’t find the secure jobs they need to raise their family. 3.7 million people are in insecure work. 900,000 are on zero-hours contracts. But the Conservative manifesto doesn’t demonstrate any understanding of the scale of this problem.

• The manifesto promises a ‘right to request’ a stable contract, rather than a ban on zero hours contracts. But everyone who’s talked to someone in insecure work knows that a right to request leaves all the power in the hands of the boss – so it’s no right at all.

• The manifesto says the Conservatives will “encourage” flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to. But today, one in three flexible working requests being turned down and two thirds of people in working class occupations don’t have access to flexi-time. So this is an issue which needs more than encouragement. Flexible working should be a day one right available to everyone.

• The manifesto talks about the Conservative’s ‘Red tape challenge’ to ensure regulation is proportionate. In the past that’s been code for slashing workers’ rights around unfair dismissal and introducing fees for employment tribunals. On top of Boris Johnson’s commitment to a hard Brexit, it’s clear that workers’ rights are on the line.

3. Conservative plans will leave public services still facing years of austerity

Nearly a decade of Conservative imposed austerity has devastated our public services. 400 thousand fewer older people are receiving publicly funded care. Funding for Sure Start children’s centres has been cut by two thirds. Over one in ten children in our state primary and secondary schools are now taught in classes with over 30 pupils, the highest levels in over 15 years.

The Conservative plans aren’t enough to turn that around.

• We know that NHS spending must rise by four per cent a year just to maintain current service levels. And if we want to keep up with rising demand, it’s five per cent. But the Conservative commitments amount to just 3.4 per cent additional resources. That’s not the real investment our NHS needs.

• Conservative commitments on increasing nurse numbers are already being dismantled just a few hours after they’ve been announced. And we shouldn’t forget that it was the Conservative government that abolished nurse bursaries in the first place.

• Social care is in crisis, but the Conservatives don’t have a plan to fix it. Instead we’re promised an attempt to seek ‘cross party consensus’. In the last 20 years there have been 12 green and white papers and 5 independent commissions on social care. This is just another excuse to kick the can down the road.

• The pledges on education would leave 80 per cent of schools in England with less per pupil per year in real terms than they had even in 2015.

• There’s no new money for local government. That means no new money for our libraries and no new money for Sure Start. Pledges to ‘revive towns’ ring hollow in the face of evidence that shows that it’s poorer urban areas that have borne the brunt of the cuts so far.

This Conservative plan doesn’t deliver for working people. It’s designed to benefit bosses and billionaires, but won’t fix our public services, protect workers’ rights or get wages rising for everyone. After a decade of Conservative-imposed austerity, our economy is weak and working families are paying the price. We need change – and this manifesto isn’t it.