If the PM wants to keep Labour switchers on side, he'll need to maintain and extend employment rights.
Since the General Election, we’ve seen a steady drip of leaks and stories on the Johnson government’s attitude to workers’ rights when we leave the EU.
We have already seen reports of threats to ban strikes on the railways, followed by an announcement in the Queens Speech of a bill on employment rights sometime in 2020 – with an implementation date of December.
Those clauses secured by some Labour MPs in Theresa May’s bill on a ‘level playing field for workers’ rights have been unceremoniously binned by Johnson.
At the time unions warned that a majority Conservative government would rip these clauses and argued that the only real guarantee of a level playing field is by ensuring workers’ rights were written into the treaty itself along with a mechanism for enforcement.
Johnson has set his course for a fight with the EU, who have already said a trade deal (even a basic deal) would be conditional on the UK accepting the EU’s rules on level playing fields on worker, consumer and environmental protections. A no deal Brexit – and a fight with both the UK’s unions and the EU on workers rights is looming.
A new post election poll conducted for the TUC shows that it won’t be plain sailing for the Tories.
According to the poll results published today, the vast majority of voters – including those who switched to or voted Conservative – want workers’ rights protected and enhanced. Voters who switched from Labour to the Conservatives are most likely to want stronger worker rights, higher pay and a ban on zero hours contracts.
The poll was conducted by GQR between December 12th and 16th, and shows that nearly 73% of voters say the government must protect and enhance current workplace rights guaranteed by the EU, such as paid holidays and rights for temporary and agency workers.
This is supported by two-thirds (65%) of people who voted Conservative in 2019, and by 8 in 10 (79%) of those who switched from Labour to Conservative.
The vast majority of voters (71%) also want new rights for gig economy workers, including the majority (65%) of Tory voters and those who moved from Labour to the Conservatives during the election (78%).
There is also widespread support amongst the public for banning zero-hours contracts (66%) and having union rights in every workplace (63%).
And there is overwhelming support (68%) among the public for an immediate increase to the minimum wage of £10 an hour, especially among those who switched from Labour to the Conservatives (76%).
TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“We know there are many in Boris Johnson’s cabinet who want to drive down labour standards. But there is little appetite in Britain – including among Conservative voters – for de-regulation and further tax cuts for the rich.
“The Prime Minister has no more excuses. Voters expect him to protect and strengthen rights at work. And to get on with investing in our public services and boosting wages.”
Tony Burke is Unite Assistant General Secretary, Chair of the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom and the TUC General Council lead on workers and union rights.
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