New forms of organising work continue to pose a challenge for the ability of workers to secure a permanent position, with decent wages and terms and conditions. The advent of zero-hours or very short hours contracts, the continued increase in agency contracts, worker surveillance, and the rise of low income, bogus self-employment all threaten our goal of great jobs for everyone. So does the so-called “uberisation” of work, a labour-on-demand model which sees hundreds of thousands of workers making a living through freelancing, contracting, temping or outsourcing, organised through technological innovation in a modern revival of piecework. Whilst uberisation currently affects a limited number of workers, the methods of organising the allocation of work that digital innovation has enabled, will in time spread across the economy.
The trade union movement needs to develop a clear agenda to push for decent pay and conditions, security, skills training and an appropriate employment status for workers across the outsourced and nontraditional employment sector. This must include redoubling our efforts to secure union influence and grow union membership and recognition, and working with allies to achieve concrete policy change and greater enforcement of the rules that exist.
We must continue to advocate to retain, enhance and extend to more workers the UK’s package of employment rights, protections and benefits. This will include arguing for fair wages for all, a real living wage wherever possible and calling for a lifting of the pay cap in the public sector. It will include defending pension entitlements and speaking out for policies and practices to increase equality at work and build worker voice at every level, including on company boards. We will also support thousands of workers into high quality apprenticeships.
And alongside it, as we approach our 150th year, we must set out anew our vision for how we create an economy that delivers decent jobs for everyone, including how we use new advances in technology to create better jobs and raise productivity, and to make sure working people get the skills so they can benefit.