As part of his bid for the Labour leadership position Owen Smith MP has launched a ‘Workplace Manifesto’. Smith’s campaign team say it “will make Britain the envy of the world for employment rights and job security” and “deliver a revolution in workers’ rights”. But just what could this mean for employees and businesses, large and small, up and down the country?
The twenty-five pledges centre on five central workplace commitments:
Improve collective Trade Union rights
This vow involves a general commitment to strengthen union trade union recognition rights and an end to so called “sweetheart deals”. Many specific measures are promised including mandatory union access to workplaces, removing obstacles to industrial action, introducing electronic balloting and repealing the Trade Union Act 2016.
Improve individual rights for working people
Smith proposes a variety of changes to existing employment law across the board in pursuit of this aim. Extending the definition of worker to end ‘bogus’ self-employment, applying employment rights such as protection from unfair dismissal “from day one”, outlawing zero-hours contracts and scrapping tribunal fees are just some of the changes he indicated he would make.
Ensure a voice for people at work
Echoing in part Prime Minister Theresa May, Smith is pushing for worker representation on Remuneration Committees and Works Councils for all companies with over 500 employees.
Strengthen collective bargaining
One of three pledges in this area is the promised introduction of “Modern Wages Councils to cover 9 million workers in hospitality, retail and social care”. In the private sector Smith has called for a new legal framework for sectoral collective bargaining with unions. Similarly in the public sector Smith has stated his Labour government would restore collective bargaining, end pay freezes and ensure equal rates for contracted out services.
Achieve lasting equality
In this sphere Smith reiterates his vow of employment rights from day one and the scrapping of tribunal fees. The manifesto also proposes new equal pay legislation and the reintroduction of discrimination questionnaires. A further new measure Smith promises is the introduction of race equality plans and the publication of the highest and lowest rates of pay for all companies with over 20 employees.
These measures would certainly involve far-reaching changes in industrial relations. They would also necessitate a shift in the structure and day to day operations of most businesses.