John McDonnell's Speech to the TUC, Put Simply

By Campaign Agent Ethan Moxam

John McDonnell has pledged to extend workers’ rights for those working in the ‘gig economy’ in a move that will “restore the balance of power in the workplace”

While the government have claimed that unemployment has reached an all-time low, with millions of low paid workers given a pay rise, those in the so called ‘gig economy’, such as many of those on  temporary and zero-hour contracts, only get paid for the work they do. Therefore, they are not protected by the same rights as legally full-time employees.This has led to many companies such as Uber and Deliveroo facing legal action from trade unions. 

The shadow chancellor addressed the 150th Trade Union Congress and said that a Labour government would give these workers the same employment rights as those in full employment. John McDonnell pledged that workers in the gig economy will received basic rights such as sick pay and parental leave as part of Labour’s plan to bring about “the biggest extension of individual and collective rights our country has ever seen”.

There are currently 2.8 million workers employed in the ‘gig economy’, according to a government report in February. These are most frequently 18-34 year olds in the London area. 

While there are many supporters of the flexible hours and short-term work found in these jobs, Mr McDonnell argues that such work has contributed to “a workplace environment of insecurity not seen since the 1930’s”.

The Shadow Chancellor argues this problem has been exacerbated by the Conservative party, claiming they have taken back employment rights to levels not seen since the Great Depression. McDonnell continued by saying: “The role of Conservative governments throughout history has been to restrict and restrain the rights and influence of workers to maximise the profits of the companies that so generously fund their party”.

MDonnell also proposed plans to allow collective bargaining across multiple sectors of the economy, as well as introducing employee ownership funds. For which companies will give workers a financial stake in the profits and management of the firm. 

He states that under a labour government, all private companies with more than 250 employees would need to set up “ownership funds” to give their employees a financial stake in the business and more say in how it is managed. Such changes would be implemented within the first year of a Labour government.

These new proposals follow from current Labour policy to bad zero hour contracts, as well as scrapping “anti-trade union” laws.

Mr McDonnell also told the TUC that a Labour administration would create a new department for employment, in a mission to ‘transform’ the workplace, placing trade unionism at the centre of the organisation.  

Chancellor Phillip Hammond was quick to hit back, saying: “This is Labour’s record on workers - the last Labour government left half a million more people out of work, and every labour government leaving office with unemployment higher than when it started.”

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed said: “Labour’s proposal will drive a stake through the heart of the flexibility which makes gig work so attractive to people.” They continued, stating that the gig economy had created many opportunities for workers and benefiting consumers, allowing the UK to become a global beacon of innovation.

Sources and Further Reading

Image: Rwendland @Wikimedia Commons

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