Last week, Asda workers around the country faced industrial blackmail. They were told they faced the sack if they did not agree to a new contract that would allow managers to change everything about their job, from their shift rotas to their job title.
This is a symptom of a system that is rigged against working people.
Millions of workers are trapped in insecure jobs on low pay, zero hours contracts, bogus self-employment and unending agency work.
Workers’ wages still haven’t recovered from the 2008 financial crisis and inequality is sky high.
This is no accident. It’s the result of deliberate choices by the current government and the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition to dismantle the employment rights that working people rely on for protection at work, to drive down wages and create a climate of insecurity in the workplace.
Over the last decade, these governments have doubled the qualifying period for unfair dismissal, passed the 2016 Trade Union Act to limit workers’ right to organise and join unions, and shamefully refused to ban zero-hours contracts.
The coming general election is a chance to put things right
We know that when workers join together they can make their working lives better.
Workplaces with collective agreements negotiated by trade unions have higher pay, shorter working hours, better holiday and sick pay, more family-friendly measures, better policies to promote equality at work, and better health and safety.
That’s why the TUC is calling on politicians to introduce new rights so that workers can access the protection of a union in every workplace.
This would enable workers to organise collectively and bargain with their employers through unions to secure decent pay and better working conditions in their workplace and across industries.
We desperately need new laws to protect insecure workers from bogus self employment and a ban on zero-hours contracts
Other countries such Ireland and New Zealand have banned zero hours contacts – so why not the UK?
But we don’t just need to fight for new rights. We need to defend the ones we still have.
The TUC has been clear that the Brexit deal Boris Johnson has negotiated – or a no-deal Brexit – would be a disaster for working people.
And leaked documents suggest the government is deliberately manoeuvring to downgrade UK workers’ rights in any post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
That could open the door to those politicians who want to turn the UK into a low wage, protection-free ‘Singapore on Thames’ style economy.
And it would allow bad bosses to slash workers’ rights that are currently protected by EU legislation such as paid holidays, work breaks, parental rights, protections for part-time and agency workers and protection for workers when companies are subject to take overs and mergers.
That’s why this election is so important
It’s time to stand up for what trade unionists believe in, to protect our hard-won rights at work and to fight for a new deal for workers.
In this election the TUC will be making sure that politicians hear that message loud and clear.
Tony Burke is the TUC General Council lead on employment and union rights and Assistant General Secretary of Unite.
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