Britain needs good jobs that give fair pay, dignity, and pride in being part of something bigger.
In my speech I called on the UK Govt to:
- Ban dodgy employer behaviour, including fire and rehire
- Partner with business and unions to drive post-Covid growth
- Invest in skills for future work
Good jobs and decent working conditions have always been central to the Labour party’s core mission. Prosperity and patriotism are the mutually reinforcing foundations upon which our Labour movement is based, and although we in the Opposition recognise that good pay is utterly crucial we also know that work is about dignity, pride and contribution. It is about being part of something bigger.
In my Aberavon constituency, I see that desire to be part of something bigger every day—from the NHS workers who have saved so many lives to the manufacturers who have provided them with PPE, and the steelworkers who have continued to build the foundations of our modern economy. Yet over the last 11 years we have seen an exponential increase in insecurity across all sectors of our economy—from the two in five adult workers who do not yet know their shift hours for next week to the exploited gig economy workers denied holiday pay, the workers sacked by British Gas and then rehired on worse conditions, the high street workers with the threat of internet shopping looming over them, and the factory workers who could be the latest victims in the erosion of our manufacturing base that we have seen over the last 11 years.
British workers are the greatest asset that this country has, yet successive Conservative Governments have utterly failed to value their contribution. Many on the Conservative Benches celebrate flexibility and fluidity, yet flexibility without real choice means insecurity, and fluidity without proper investment in reskilling means mass unemployment. Tackling insecurity at work should therefore be a top priority for any Government, so where on earth is the long-promised employment Bill? Its omission from this Queen’s Speech is simply unforgivable.
It is important to recognise that during the pandemic 50% of the workforce did not work a single day from home. It is many of those workers, who are still going into work or who have been furloughed, who are the most likely to be at the sharp end of the job market, with their jobs often the most at risk from automation, the digital economy and the green revolution. It is these trends—and, crucially, how the Government respond to them—that will define Britain’s success in the years ahead. Of course, the trade union movement must be at the heart of this response. The modern job market will evolve, but the basic principle will always remain: the most productive and competitive companies are those that give their workforce a strong voice. Good industrial relations deliver good business results.
I therefore suggest that there should be three core principles at the heart of the Government’s response: first, dignity at work with new legislation protecting the rights of employees, not least to outlaw fire and rehire; secondly, partnering with business and trade unions for a new kind of growth to deliver the jobs of the future, recognising where Britain can be competitive but also that the less celebrated foundational industries such as steel are critical for our security; and thirdly, a properly resourced programme of training and retraining aimed at the jobs of the future. There is no point in trying to address the productivity crisis if we keep cutting the workforce out of the conversation; there is no point in investing in further education if the jobs are not there; and there is no point in decarbonising our industrial base if the local workforce is not trained up and if jobs and carbon emissions are simply offshored. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), the shadow Chancellor, has so rightly said, our communities do not need sloganeering about levelling up; they need good jobs. She said:
“We need jobs you can raise a family on”.