• International Workplace
  • 12 September 2019

Labour proposes creation of ‘Ministry of Employment Rights’

Speaking at the TUC Congress in Brighton, Jeremy Corbyn announced that a future Labour government would create a ministry of employment rights and a workers’ protection agency, bringing about the “biggest extension of rights for workers that our country has ever seen”.

The department would deliver higher wages, provide greater security and give workers more say in how their workplaces are run. Within 100 days of arriving in office, Corbyn said Labour would repeal the Tory trade union act and ban unpaid internships.

Said Corbyn:

“Labour will deliver a real living wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers, from the age of 16, action on the gender pay gap, equal rights for all workers from day one and the end of zero-hour contracts.”

Workers on the minimum wage aged 16-17 are currently paid £4.35 per hour, while 18- to 20-year-olds receive £6.15.

To enforce the laws, Labour plans to create a protection agency that would have the power to enter workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf. Corbyn said:

“Last week the Financial Times said that Labour is, and I quote: ‘determined to shift power away from bosses and landlords and to workers and tenants’. Well there has been no shortage of rather unkind reporting about our party over the last few years, but this time they’ve got it absolutely right.

“We will put workers on company boards, and give the workforce a 10% stake in large companies paying a dividend of as much as £500 a year to each employee. For 40 years the share of the cake going to workers has been getting smaller and smaller. In 1976 wages took over 64% of GDP, now it’s only 54%. It’s no coincidence that the same period has seen a sustained attack on the organisations that represent workers – trade unions.”

Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general of the CBI, accused Labour of making the proposals “in isolation from business”.

“They fail to reflect the reality in workplaces around the country,” he said. “The vast majority of firms thrive on strong employee engagement, invest in training and prioritise wellbeing. They support jobs, sustainable wage rises and enforcement of employment law. A fundamental re-write of regulation is the last thing the economy needs right now.

“At a time when the UK is already on the watchlist for international investors, these proposals will do further harm to our economy. We ask Labour to rethink and engage with business to restore confidence, or risk harming the very people they are seeking to help.”

Labour said the workers’ protection agency would support for good employers through tougher penalties for bad employers who undercut them by breaking the law and tougher consequences for non-compliance with court orders.