Thursday, 1 May 2008

Policy Consultation - time for radical new legislation on workers' rights

As I write, the polling stations are just shutting up and down the country. We don't know what the results will be. Fingers crossed that excellent Labour councillors up and down the country won't be unceremoniously flung out of office and replaced by feckless Tories, Lib Dems or worse. Fingers crossed Ken has held on in London.

But whatever the result, Gordon Brown has said that there is going to be a wide-ranging, genuine policy consultation in the party, giving CLPs and union branches the chance to submit full amendments to policy documents before they go to the NPF, and giving us the chance to have a real discussion about policies. People from all areas of the party seem to agree that the time is more than right to get some genuinely radical policies on the agenda. I started off a discussion at Labourhome (and got some interesting responses) and I know other Labour blogs are going to get involved with the discussion too. While there a wide range of interesting reforms being discussed (especially proposed constitutional reforms, etc.) I think we on the left should make a particularly strong push on the issue of trade unions and workers' rights. This is particularly in the light of recent comments by Osborne and the Tories.

We all know there have been policy consultations before, and we all know many have been nothing more than expensive PR exercises. But if we make a concerted effort on this, I think we could push some of this legislation to the top of the agenda, and - if nothing else - make it much harder for the government to talk out future private members' bills in these areas.

The two key pieces of legislation in this area, proposed in recent years, are the Trade Union Freedom Bill and the Temporary and Agency Workers Bill. I think we should use this consultation to make a strong case for the government introducing a Workers' Rights Bill: a synthesis of these two excellent bills, with full government support. Let's try and put in place some fundamental and irreversible protection for working people.

I propose that we come up with a form of words that clearly states that we want this legislation in place; take the words to our CLPs, union branches, etc. and publish here which organisations have proposed the amendment. We could disperse the amendment via the networks of the LRC, STLP, CLPD, Compass, etc, also via Labour Briefing, Tribune, the Chartist, etc. and through various Labour blogs. The temptation will be for everyone to put their own set of words in, and on some issues that will undoubtedly happen. But to have a big effect we should organise and work together.

Let's put our internal democracy to the test: let's try and get a set of proposals with overwhelming trade union support and strong parliamentary support and clear support among party members established as clear PARTY POLICY and then challenge the government to implement it.


Robert said...

I take it you know who Nye Bevan was, I doubt many New Labour do.

Why is it I've seen not one single blog say what about the Welfare reforms.

All my life I've voted Labour because they stood up for those of us who have for reasons of birth or accident needed the Welfare state to live.

Yet New Labour in October will force people to move from benefits of Incapacity benefits onto Job seekers without any possibility of finding work.

Yet I've had so called Labour or New Labour tell me most disabled people are frauds, most disabled people can work but refuse.

I spent eighteen months in hospital after an accident in work, I have a lesion of the spinal cord in other words it's cut, nothing from my waist down works, I have kidney failure and liver failure, and yet in October this year I will be forced not back to work, I would not mind working, but will be forced onto lower benefits £40 lower, I only get £90 a week now.

Yet for all the carping about New Labour this and that none of you have bothered about the three things which made Labour Labour.

The welfare state, the NHS, and of course social housing, all have suffered over the years under the Tories and Labour.

To day I see my NHS being slowly sold off to private companies, social housing has gone, and now New Labour is attacking the base of the party welfare state.

Vote Labour I rather vote for Thatcher.

Duncan Hall said...

Robert - I absolutely agree with you that we need to mount a very robust defence of the welfare state. Your personal story makes the point very clearly and you're right to be furious.

Let's get welfare on the agenda in this policy consulation too. I don't say this as an afterthougt - I agree with you that it is of fundamental importance and comes down to the heart of what the Labour Party is all about (in that latter sense it is similar to trade union rights - both sets of issues are definitively Labour issues).

Clearly this thread was about trade union legislation, but I would point to the Labour left fighting very hard in the three areas you point to, and the LRC having clear policies in these areas, and policies I think you would support. I agree we need to get that message across louder and of course I agree that in the specific case of welfare reform action is required very quickly.

Robert said...

My Union is the GMB, I've stayed a fully paid up member, sadly I've failed to get any replies from my Union seems we who worked an became disabled due to our work are not really trade Unionists anymore.

Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

Robert - what GMB branch are you in?

Robert said...

south/West Wales, Swansea Branch/office.

Duncan Hall said...

By the way - I think three or four threads like this (i.e. 'Policy Consultation - Time for...') would be good. We should pick issues which a) we strongly believe in and will have huge positive impacts on working people; b) will reconnect the party with our voters who have stayed at home or deserted us; b) we can (where possible) get some sort of consensus around across the broad left of the movement.

I've proposed the trade union rights one to start with, but I think we should have proposals on welfare reforms and social housing. Where possible it makes sense to use agreed LRC policy because we know there is already some consensus on that.

Others will be putting forward constitutional stuff - we should keep an eye on it, but we should probably focus on the stuff that impacts more directly on people's lives.

ian said...

Robert, I can see you are pretty angry about Labour and understandibly so. But now is not the time to abstain. Now is the time to concentrate your anger and get even with the New Labour junta that hi-jacked the party.

You need to get invoved with your fellow workers to re-take the Labour Party. That can only be done by uniting with trade unionists and community groups who have been hardest hit by new labours policies.

You are right as well that disabled people have been dealt a really rough time by new labour. I have a few mates who work for Remploy and the way the government has treated them is dispicable.

If you have had problems with your union complain to them. write to your regional secretary. Unions must listen to their members. It is the members that are the union not its officials!!