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Unions to meet Starmer over workers' rights fears

UNION leaders are set for a showdown meeting with Sir Keir Starmer over fears that the party is walking back commitments to improve workers’ rights.

They will meet the Labour leader next week as speculation mounts that key parts of the agreed New Deal for Working People may be diluted or dropped.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said today a new Labour draft shared with unions was “unrecognisable” and turned “a real new deal for workers into a charter for bad bosses. Labour don’t want a law against fire and rehire and they are effectively ripping up the promise of legislation on a new deal for workers in its first 100 days.

“In truth this document is not worthy of discussion,” she added.

And TUC president and firefighters’ union leader Matt Wrack has demanded that there be “no backtracking and no weakening” of the pledges made in the New Deal, agreed by Labour in 2021.

The party has confirmed that it is not going to issue a straightforward ban of “zero-hours contracts” but will instead allow workers to decide to stay on such arrangements, as if employer and employee dealt with the issue as equals.

And clear pledges for action against abuses, and rights for workers from day one of employment, are now to be subject to “consultation” with business first and some policies may end up merely being “advice.”

While Labour has denied that any further weakening is on the way, Sir Keir’s record of policy U-turns inspires no reassurance, with the dumping of the £28 billion green investment programme only the most recent and high profile.

One union source said that key issues in the talks with the party would be “to make sure there has been no shift on the right to organise, the right to join a union and the right to collective bargaining. But we are concerned about zero hours, and that could turn out to be the most significant.”

The unions affiliated to Labour have already met to discuss strategy ahead of the meeting with Sir Keir.

They will be fighting to defend the New Deal in the already weakened form in which it was agreed by Labour’s Policy Forum last year.

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