MPs and business leaders back stronger workers’ rights. When will they act?

New polling shows that stronger workers’ rights aren't just popular among the left.

Tony Burke is Assistant General Secretary at British trade union Unite and the Trade Union Congress’s General Council lead on employment and trade union rights.

There should be no going back to business as usual after the pandemic, after a new poll commissioned by Unite showed business leaders and MPs – including many Tories –back an improvement to worker’ rights.

Unite leader McCluskey said the poll showed that Government should ban the latest abuse of UK workers’ rights – the ‘hiring and firing’ of workers calling it ‘a hideous practice’.

“Fire and rehire belongs in the dark ages, not a modern-day nation. Millions of workers are now fighting to hang onto the wages that support their families as contracts signed in good faith are being destroyed by bad employers without consequence,” he said. The polling took place over three different ‘waves’ in January and February this year

The Unite poll showed that more than half of all MPs believe the government review into employment rights should improve worker’s rights with 35% saying they should stay the same, and only 5% believing they should be made weaker.

The poll was weighted to reflect the makeup of the current Parliament and a fifth of Conservative MPs said they would support improving worker’s rights, while 61% favoured keeping rights the same, and only 9% support reducing worker’s rights.

All Labour MPs supported an improvement in worker’s rights, as did 86% of SNP MPs. Interestingly there is also support among business leaders to improve worker’s rights with 53% of business leaders supporting improved rights; 36% wanting to keep them as they are, and only 6% wanting to reduce worker’s rights.

And a majority of business leaders – 52% – also said they believe trade unions in the workplace is a good thing. They backed more generous sick pay for workers by a majority of 54%.

On the immediate priorities for business and industry following the pandemic, MPs’ top two priorities were planning (first priority of 48% of MPs), followed by extending the Jobs Retention Scheme (JRS) supported by 23%.

The highest priority for Conservative MPs polled was post pandemic planning by a 64% margin. Post pandemic planning was the highest priority for business and industry with an extension of JRS close behind.

When the list of priorities is pulled together post pandemic planning (83%) and extending the JRS (76%) remain the top two priorities for government to address.

McCluskey said: “The prime minister’s promise to build back better must not be a hollow one. Our country sits on the precipice of a further frightening economic contraction; only mass investment and action now will save jobs, avert mass unemployment and recover the economy.”

The polling reflects the growth in the numbers of new members joining trade unions, the influence unions have had in helping companies get through the last year.

Workers’ rights need to be at the heart of government plans for a national recovery plan.

See the full polling here.

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