How trade unions reacted to Labour’s manifesto 

Labour’s pledges received praise, but also warnings that it hasn’t gone far enough for some leading unions

Keir Starmer

Unions have taken Labour’s manifesto as a welcome change to 14 years of Conservative ‘destruction’ and attacks on workers’ rights, however it comes amid warnings that the party’s pledges must go further to address shortfalls in its offer to public services.

The GMB union said the manifesto “offers a vision of hope” referring to the New Deal for Working People as a “once in a generation chance to completely transform the lives of working people.”

Labour has committed to implement a New Deal for Working People, introducing legislation within 100 days, which would represent a massive change to employment law in the UK, if implemented fully. 

Critics have pointed out that there is no mention of repealing anti-union legislation in the manifesto, although it’s a prominent commitment in the New Deal plan. The document is however a watered down version of the original 2021 document which has angered trade unions. 

Labour affiliated union Usdaw, which represents retail workers, also welcomed the manifesto saying the “pro-business, pro-worker” document will deliver ‘desperately needed’ change. 

But Unite’s General Secretary Sharon Graham has said Labour’s proposals are “not likely to be enough”. 

Unite was the only affiliated union not to endorse Labour’s manifesto. It said ‘red lines’ were broken, specifically on Labour’s revision to promises on workers’ rights and banning new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea without having a concrete plan for jobs. 

“To fix Britain after years of Tory neglect is going to need more money and there are clear choices to be made. Whilst we all want growth and Labour’s proposed changes may move the dial somewhat – that alone is not likely to be enough,” said Graham. 

However the UK’s largest union UNISON was more hopeful, with General Secretary Christina McAnea saying the manifesto offers a “clear plan for the future”. 

She said it was “gimmick-free and “full of costed measures designed to make a real difference to people’s lives at work, at school or at home”. McAnea highlighted the manifesto promise for a fair pay agreement in social care and the pledge to create a national care service.

The Royal College of Nursing has praised the manifesto for making “strong commitments” to repealing anti-trade union legislation and improving workers’ rights, however the union said it didn’t go far enough in terms of investment in the nursing profession and services. 

The RCN said it would seek negotiations ‘immediately’ this summer (if Labour win) to get greater reassurance on plans to retain NHS staff and for fairer pay.

On schools, the National Education Union welcomed the party’s commitment to education and securing economic growth, however it warned that there was “no indication.. that current cuts to education will be reversed”.

The union also noted that tackling child poverty should be a central concern for the next government and, while it welcomed Labour’s commitment to introduce free school breakfast clubs for primary school children, it urged the party to commit to removing the two-child benefit cap.

Promising to “hold Labour’s feet to the fire” over its commitment to strengthening workers’ rights, the Fire Brigades Union said “it will be our duty to ensure a new Labour government makes good on these promises within the first 100 days of taking power”.

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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