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Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt
LABOUR has announced sick-pay plans for those trapped in the gig economy as part of its “new deal for working people,” despite the party scrambling to defend its own internal redundancies.
The party said its employment rights charter, launched today, would help more than six million workers who do not currently earn enough to qualify for sick pay.
These include drivers, couriers and others in the gig economy as well as the “genuinely” self-employed.
Three separate legal statuses of employment would be rolled into one status of “worker” and given the same rights, including sick pay, the national minimum wage, holiday pay, paid parental leave, and unfair dismissal protection.
Labour would also ditch qualifying probationary periods and introduce day-one job rights, praised by left campaign group Momentum as a bold move.
Momentum co-chairwoman Gaya Sriskanthan said: “This policy would change the lives of millions for the better overnight, and it is exactly the kind of bold vision that can unite working people from Hackney to Hartlepool.
“Great work from [shadow employment rights & protections secretary] Andy McDonald and his team for developing what will be a significant step forward for workers’ rights in Britain. Now it’s up to the party as a whole to get out there and campaign for it.”
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said the “fork in the road” charter is the least that workers could expect after the Covid-19 pandemic — but she was forced to admit that the party is asking its own staff to consider taking voluntary redundancy due to a lack of cash.
The Labour List website reported last week that party reserves are down to one month’s payroll, with general secretary David Evans reportedly telling the national executive committee last week: “We don’t have any money.”
Finances have been under strain since the party suffered a catastrophic loss of membership following Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as leader last year.
Numbers swelled to well over half a million when the Islington North MP was at the helm between 2015 and 2020, making the party at one stage the biggest in Europe.
The decision by the Unite union, Labour’s biggest donor, to cut its contributions, combined with a lack of wealthy donors coming forward, has also hit the party coffers, Mr Evans is reported to have conceded — as had costs dealing with thousands of internal complaints.
Temporary workers are being hired to help work through the backlog, it is reported, despite the push for voluntary redundancies.
The situation has been compared to the growing prevalence of fire-and-rehire tactics by bad bosses, despite Labour’s new charter pledging to outlaw the practice.
Asked about the situation, Ms Rayner said: “We are in the devastating circumstances where we have lost general elections, and we have lost resources as a result of that, and our organisation has to change.
“At the moment we are asking people to take voluntary redundancy and change the way we do our work like any organisation that goes through those times.”
She said Labour will “never support or endorse fire and rehire as an acceptable process,” adding: “We want to make sure Labour is in a very lean, fit position to win the next general election.”
Other pledges in the new charter include a £10 minimum hourly wage, a right to work flexibly, and “strengthened trade unions,” with more workers covered by collectively agreed deals.
It also promises support for “well-paid green jobs in industries of the future,” a fairer tax system, a jobs promise for young people and the creation of tens of thousands of apprenticeships.
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