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Companies must recognise unions to win public contracts under Labour, says McDonnell

by Conrad Landin in Manchester

COMPANIES will have to recognise trade unions to win public contracts under the next Labour government, John McDonnell announced today.

The shadow chancellor said a change of government would mean “the anti-trade union era will end” in an address to TUC Congress.

In a package of reforms to address the gig economy and precarious work, Mr McDonnell said Labour would “shift the burden of proof so the law treats you as a worker unless your employer can prove otherwise.”

Currently employers such as Uber argue that their workforces are self-employed, meaning they can deny workers basic rights such as sick pay.

Mr McDonnell promised “the biggest extension of independent collective rights that our country has ever seen” if Labour takes office. Private finance initiative schemes would be ended, a financial transaction tax brought in and all workers would have “equal rights from day one.”

Exploitative umbrella companies that charge workers extra for payroll costs would also be cut out, Mr McDonnell said.

Covering fresh ground, he said that companies “will only get [government] contracts if they recognise a trade union representative” in their workplace.

Unite assistant chief executive Tony Burke had told Congress earlier that “every pretence of having an industrial strategy has been abandoned” by the Tories.

He said they had “waved the white flag” over job losses at Bombardier.

Mr McDonnell said that few today could argue that “the balance [of forces in society] hasn’t been overwhelmingly tipped against workers.” This had led to “insecurity not seen since the 1930s,” he argued.

Unite leader Len McCluskey said: “Every decent person in the country should applaud the proposals set out by John McDonnell and Labour.

“The impact on families and workers when work has been casualised, as it has been for millions in this country today, is appalling.

“John McDonnell and Labour should be congratulated for being determined to bring back some fairness and decency to working life in this country.”

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