Together We Can Transform Our Working Lives
People working together can achieve great things. This year, women working for Glasgow city council finally won their fight for equal pay, after thousands took part in strike action. They’re now set to receive millions of pounds in wages that were denied to them. Last month we heard that a buyer had been found for the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Workers there had staged a sit-in calling for the company to be saved. And just last week McDonald’s workers across the country have been striking for better pay and working conditions.
But too many workers in the UK don’t get the chance to come together with their colleagues to make their working conditions better. Outdated laws stop unions having the right to enter workplaces to tell people about the benefit of joining a trade union, meaning hostile employers – like Amazon – can simply lock unions out. Progressively higher hurdles have been placed in the way of unions’ ability to negotiate and bargain for their members. And the government does too little to promote the role of unions – despite widespread evidence that workplaces where unions are present not only have fairer pay and better working conditions, they’re more innovative and better at handling change too.
It’s this shift in the balance of power away from working-class people that lies behind the unacceptable face of work in the UK today. The average worker still hasn’t seen their pay recover from the financial crisis, while the top one per cent have seen their pay shoot up. British workers work the longest full-time hours in Europe – including giving their employers £32 billion of unpaid overtime last year. 3.7 million people are in insecure work, including nearly 900,000 on zero-hours contracts.
These unpredictable shift patterns leave people not knowing when they’ll be working from one week to the next – from one day to the next in some cases, meaning it’s impossible to plan your life, and often to pay your bills. When we polled working people earlier this year, two-fifths (41%) of workers told us that pay not keeping up with living costs is among their biggest concerns at work. Nearly 1 in 3 (30%) workers said they wouldn’t be able to pay an unexpected £500 bill – up from 24% in 2017. And of those that could pay, a quarter (24%) say they would have to go into debt or sell something. The result of that is clear; this year we’ve seen a record number of people falling into insolvency and the Trussell Trust have just reported the steepest increase in the need for food banks in five years.
We know it doesn’t have to be this way. This election is a chance to make the changes we need to put working-families first, and elect a government prepared to shift the balance of power back towards workers. That means giving unions a right to access workplaces – to tell people about the benefits of unions and to support their members. We want new rights so that more workers can bargain through their unions for fair pay and conditions, in their workplaces and across industries. And we need a better floor of rights for all workers too. We need to ban on zero-hours contracts. Workers deserve a £10 minimum wage now. And we need new rights for all workers from day one in their job - including a right to redundancy pay and family-friendly rights.
We know that we can make work better when we come together to change things. Let’s make sure that during this election politicians hear that message loud and clear.