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NEARLY 500 people attended the Fringe Marquee at Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival to hear the case for a dedicated government department for labour and trade union rights.
The meeting on Friday evening was organised by the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the Institute of Employment Rights.
President of both organisations Professor Keith Ewing argued that an incoming Labour government should pass three laws on workers’ rights.
The first is to introduce a new Ministry of Labour to ensure that workers’ interests were represented at Cabinet level, and the second is to legislate for the reintroduction of sectoral collective bargaining to raise living standards and provide a voice at work.
The third is to prevent abuses in the precarious use of zero-hours contracts as highlighted by the McStrikers at McDonald’s, who have been campaigning for set hours contracts and a £10 an hour minimum wage.
McStriker and fast food union BFAWU community organiser Shen Batmaz told attendees that managers using zero-hours contracts as a means of punishing dissident workers was common.
She spoke of a single mother who had had her hours cut so much that she had become homeless.
Ms Batmaz pledged her support for a Corbyn-led Labour government but added that Jeremy Corbyn had said not to wait for a Labour government, and that workers must always continue organising and fighting against exploitation.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke about the 20-point plan for labour rights reform that were set out in Labour’s manifesto, a plan that had largely been inspired by the work of the Institute of Employment Rights.
He spoke about the reform of corporate governance and giving workers the right of first refusal to purchase their company if subjected to a hostile takeover, as well as the immediate necessity of introducing a national minimum wage of £10 per hour.
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