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Labour Conference 2018 Delegates hear of the ‘dark truth’ of irregular work at the IER fringe

THE “dark” world of irregular work can be improved by the adoption of radical new proposals, shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said today.

Ms Long-Bailey told the Institute of Employment Rights (IER) fringe meeting that the Tories use employment figures to “hide a dark truth” that one in nine workers is in irregular and insecure work.

“It is quite clear that something radical needs to be done,” she insisted.

Attendees gasped in shock when she said that parcel delivery company Hermes ended a man’s “gig economy” job and told him that “parcels come first” in response to his request for time to visit his premature baby in hospital.

The fringe also heard from Lauren McCourt, who was part of the first ever McDonald’s strike in Britain last year.

She recalled how her colleagues on zero hours tried to work “seven days a week” because the free food they got were the “only meals they could get.”

Ms McCourt said that she was petrified of losing shifts in case she could not afford her rent and was subsequently made homeless.

IER director Carolyn Jones said that the think tank’s new “operating manual” titled Rolling out the manifesto for labour law – unveiled at TUC conference earlier this month – is a “road map” on how ideas in Labour’s manifesto can be implemented to end such callous exploitation.

The IER is proposing that the next Labour government establishes a Collective Bargaining Act, as well as sectoral collective bargaining that would determine legally binding minimum terms and conditions for whole industries to benefit every worker.

The organisation’s chairman John Hendy said economists back the measure because it would be the “single most effective way of giving workers a say at work and also reduce inequality.”

More than 80 per cent of workers had the protection of a collective agreement when Thatcher’s government came into power on May 4 1979, he told the fringe.

Now that number has dwindled to just over 20 per cent and collective bargaining is already a duty under international law, Mr Hendy said.

Thompson’s Solicitors lawyer Stephen Cavalier QC said the Tory government could easily properly enforce rights for all workers – that are mostly enjoyed by full-time permanent employees – as enshrined in section 23 of the Employment Relations Act 1999.

But the Tories instead choose to hinder workers’ access to justice by imposing employment tribunal fees and cutting legal aid, he added.

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