Labour has not yet stood up for workers
Labour needs to get on the front foot and demand clear and unambiguous rights for workers. It is extraordinary that in the post-referendum period an opposition day resolution has not already been tabled to enable a parliamentary vote to precisely and specifically endorse this.
The Labour heartlands, for better or for worse, delivered the decision to leave the European Union, and in very large numbers. Some wards voted 80 per cent and higher for Leave. Too many are taking comfort in one poll which suggests two-thirds of Labour voters chose Remain. Even a cursory analysis of the results shows that this is nonsense, and in my district the only wards to support Remain were in the old Tory heartlands.
This working-class vote to leave also gives a clear mandate for maintaining existing trade union rights, on holidays, maternity pay and working hours as minimum rights enshrined in UK statute, but also as rights that can be expanded. There is a huge majority consent in the country to enshrine these basic rights into domestic law as minimum expandable provisions. This vote was as much about empowerment in the workplace as it was about any other issue, and any attempt by the Tory party to ignore this will lead to significant social unrest.
It is also a clear mandate to end the bias in employment law towards agency work and zero-hours contracts. Within EU law any change is challengeable in the European court as it impinges on free association and free movement, but outside this over-flexibility of the labour market can now be tackled head-on.
There is more needed. Employers get a range of tax breaks without the requirement to provide full apprenticeships – the two must be linked. It should become the expectation and obligation of successful British businesses to employ apprentices, and these apprenticeships should be comprehensive skills, not cheap disposable labour. The current definitions of apprenticeships are too loose and too low‑skilled.
There should also be an immediate economic stimulus by empowering local authorities’ borrowing powers to build bungalows. Small, environmentally sound bungalows will release social housing for young people, allow equity release which itself will reflate the economy and create spending power through energy bill savings. As a small aside, it will also abolish the logic, and can remove the inequity, of the bedroom tax.
John Mann is member of parliament for Bassetlaw
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