Working families throughout Wales desperately need change at this election

Published date
This is the most important election in a generation for working families. No matter who we are or where we come from, all of us should have a chance to get on in life.

The next UK government must:

  • Get wages rising faster for everyone - not just top earners.
  • Ban zero-hours contracts and guarantee everyone the security at work we need.
  • Give Welsh Government sufficient funding for our NHS and the public services we all rely on - don't cut taxes for the rich.

We’ve taken a look at what’s on offer in each of the Welsh manifestos to get a feel for how the parties would deliver on these aims and more.

Welsh Labour

Welsh Labour’s manifesto builds on the party’s commitment to make Wales a fair work nation, including the recently published Social Partnership White Paper.

They’ll promote the success of our Better Jobs Closer to Home campaign, work in social partnership to secure the future of manufacturing, and develop our industrial base. They’ll also focus on a green industrial revolution to “create well-paid, unionised jobs – in line with our ambition to make Wales a fair work nation,” delivering a just transition to a greener economy, and will continue investing in the Wales Union Learning Fund.

On workers’ rights, they’re clear that “[o]nly by shifting the balance of power back towards workers will we achieve decent wages, security and dignity at work.” At the UK level, along with a £10 living wage for everyone, their plans focus on realising workers’ right to a collective voice, including:

  • access rights to workplaces for unions
  • plans to make it easier for workers and unions to establish collective bargaining in their workplace
  • sectoral collective bargaining.

We know that’s the best way to get pay rising for everyone. And international institutions agree with us – even the OECD (the organisation of rich nations) recently called for countries to “revamp collective bargaining to prevent rising labour market inequalities.

There’s a real commitment to tackle pay inequality, with new reporting requirements to expose race and disability-based pay discrimination and plans to ensure employers have to take action on closing the gender pay gap. And what’s more, the UK will be brought in line with the rest of Europe with four new bank holidays.

They also address job security, through plans to:

  • ban Zero-Hours Contracts 
  • give every worker day one rights in their job, including to redundancy pay and flexible working
  • a legal right to collective consultation on the implementation of new technology in workplaces

A more progressive tax system will help Wales recover from the impact of austerity, especially for our public services. While there is more detail needed here, it’s welcome recognition of the fact that Welsh public services have suffered because of the UK government’s austerity programme.

Welsh Conservatives

Since 2010 the Conservatives have overseen a lost decade for worker pay, have starved Welsh public services, and have consistently attacked workers’ rights.

The Welsh Conservative manifesto suggests more of the same.      

There’s no plan to get wages rising for everyone. They have re-announced a plan to raise the minimum wage by 2025. But this fails to recognise the urgency for people who are struggling now. 

Despite a pledge to raise the national insurance threshold to £9,500, our research shows that Conservative plans 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.

The manifesto also proposes:

  • A ban on the right to strike for rail workers.
  • No concrete action on executive pay.
  • Nothing on the gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

Zero hours contracts are sky-rocketing in Wales – yet the Tories have no serious proposals to tackle them. No ban. Just a promise of a ‘right to request’ a stable contract – a right that would leave all the power with the bosses. 

They propose a new single enforcement body for tackling abuses of worker’s rights but without any new money to go with it this threatens to be little more than a public relations exercise.

Plaid Cymru

While Plaid Cymru’s manifesto points out that the latest Brexit deal fails to guarantee workers’ rights and commits to uphold social, health and environmental protections in any future trade policy, it doesn’t explore if and how workers’ rights should be strengthened in much detail. This feels like a missed opportunity.

Manufacturing and ports are highlighted as key sectors of strategic importance, alongside ambitions for a green jobs revolution focussing on renewable energy in particular (although without committing to a just transition), and a National Reconstruction Fund.

They want to see more women (through an enhanced childcare offer) and older people participate in paid work, and they propose ‘sheltered employment schemes’ for those who need additional support to enter or return to the labour market, echoing our Better Jobs Closer to Home campaign.

With a nod to the Preston Model, Plaid want to channel procurement spend to as many local companies as possible. Public sector workers would be paid the real living wage, as well as those in the private sector if their employer is receiving public money. They also call for a ban on zero-hours contracts. These are all good aims, but unless they’re done through collective bargaining it’s unclear how they’ll be introduced or enforced. 

Welsh Lib Dems

The Welsh Lib Dems manifesto has some welcome measures in it, but they don’t add up to a convincing platform that would deliver proper change.

The measures on pay are a good example: the promise of an ‘independent review’ on the Living Wage when what’s really needed is an expansion of sectoral collective bargaining. And there’s no commitment to the £10 minimum wage we need.

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. 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.