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Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson holding a copy of the 2019 Liberal Democrat manifesto
Getty/Dan Kitwood

Does the Liberal Democrat manifesto deliver for working families?

Published date
While there’s some welcome measures in the Lib Dem manifesto, it won’t deliver the decent jobs, rights and public services working families need.

At this general election, the TUC is urging working people to use our votes to fix Britain and make politicians put working class families first.

We’ll be assessing the party manifestos to see how they deliver on our tests for working families. First up is the Lib Dems.

Getting pay rising for everyone – not just the top earners

We’re in the longest pay squeeze for two centuries. But the Lib Dems measures to address this are half-hearted.

  • They’ve promised an ‘independent review’ to consult on how to pay a Living Wage across all sectors. We think that should be done by sectoral collective bargaining – which could also address how to improve terms and conditions more generally. But there’s no commitment to the £10 minimum wage we need.
  • There’s a long overdue plan to give unions a right of access to workplaces - but no mention of the stronger collective bargaining rights that workers need to ensure that we can maximise the value trade unions bring. That’s disappointing when just this week the OECD (the international organisation representing developed countries) has said that ‘making the most of collective bargaining in the future world of work will require some government intervention.’
  • Again, the Lib Dems have gone one step on the way to better worker representation in the board room, with a plan for one worker director on company boards, and for worker representation on remuneration committees. But for real change we need a third of the board to be workers, elected by their peers.
  • The manifesto promises new rules on ethnicity and LGBT pay gap reporting. But shockingly, they’ve completely ignored the disability pay gap – even though it’s at a completely unacceptable 15.5 per cent.

Ban zero hours contracts and guarantee everyone the security at work we need

3.7 million workers are now in insecure work. But though the Liberal Democrat manifesto recognises the problem, they won’t take the action needed to stamp out employment practices that we should have said goodbye to in the Victorian age.

  • Rather than a ban on zero hours contracts, there’s a plan for a ‘right to request’ a stable contract. We all know that a right to request is no right at all. And there’s a commitment to a higher minimum wage for some zero hours contract workers. The Low Pay Commission has already rejected this plan, put forward by the Tory government, in favour of a right to a stable contract.
  • There’s no mention of day one rights for workers. And the plan to create a new ‘dependent worker’ status is one that would give gig economy companies license to ride roughshod over workers’ rights .
  • There’s nothing on restoring unfair dismissal rights to thousands of workers who had them taken away under the coalition government. And though there’s some tweaks on how employment tribunals work, we shouldn’t forget that the Lib Dems signed off on the introduction of employment tribunal fees – only overturned after union action.
  • There’s a spot of genuine good news in the manifesto: the commitment to change the law so that flexible working is open to everyone from day one of the job, with employers required to advertise all jobs on that basis. This is a change the TUC has been campaigning for.

Rebuild our NHS and the public services we all rely on - don't cut taxes for the rich

Meeting the rising demand on our public services is one of the key challenges for the next government. This is all the more difficult given the devastating impact of ten years of austerity under coalition and Conservative governments on our NHS, schools and other vital services.

  • The Lib Dems should know by now that austerity was a huge mistake. Their manifesto contains a plan to put some sensible money into schools, and to ‘ensure teachers are paid a fair wage for the vital work they do’.
  • And there’s a £7bn a year commitment to health and social care funding, along with a further £10bn for NHS capital spending – starting to repair the damage of the last decade.
  • There’s a commitment to supporting the health and social care workforce, including a national workforce strategy - to rectify the absence of anything approaching that under Conservative-led governments in recent years – and some good proposals for professionalising the social care workforce and improving pay.
  • But there’s still no plan to fix the social care crisis – instead we’re promised another review. Once again, this looks dangerously like half measures.

Not good enough

Working families need real change at this election.

While there’s some measures to welcome in this manifesto, it won’t deliver the decent jobs, rights and public services we know families deserve.

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