06:03, September 10 245 0 theguardian.com

2019-09-10 06:03:04
Jeremy Corbyn pledges biggest ever extension to workers' rights

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to introduce the biggest ever extension to workers’ rights and create a ministry for employment rights and a workers’ protection agency should he get into government.

Announcing his envisaged shake-up of Whitehall departments at the TUC Congress in Brighton, he vowed to “put power in the hands of workers” not the “born-to-rule establishment” if he secures a Labour majority.

A new secretary of state for employment rights would ensure “the voice of working people will be heard at the cabinet table, exactly as it should be”, he said.

The workers’ protection agency embedded within the new ministry would enforce rights, standards and protections. It would also give powers to inspect workplaces and bring prosecutions and civil proceedings on behalf of workers.

The Labour leader said: “We have witnessed a deliberate, decades-long transfer of power away from working people. The consequences are stark for all workers, whether members of a trade union or not. Pay is lower than it was a decade ago in real terms.

“Labour is on the side of the people in the real battle against the born-to-rule establishment that Johnson represents.”

On creating a workers’ protection agency, he said: “Rights only mean anything if they’re enforced. Too many employers are getting away with flouting laws. Nearly half a million people are still being paid less than the minimum wage.

“We’ll put a stop to that. We’ll create a workers protection agency with the power to enter workplaces and bring prosecutions on workers’ behalf.”

Other changes to workers’ rights would include a statutory “real living wage” of £10 per hour by 2020 for all workers aged 16 or over, a ban on unpaid internships and zero-hours contracts.

Sectoral collective bargaining would be introduced by establishing a councils of worker and employer representatives to negotiate agreements with minimum terms, conditions and standards for the whole of a particular sector.

In a speech to the TUC on Tuesday afternoon, fleshing out the plans in more detail, the shadow business minister, Laura Pidcock, is expected to say: “Under Labour, the voice of working people will be heard at the cabinet table, exactly as it should be.

“Despite working some of the longest hours in Europe, millions of people in this country – one of the richest in the history of the world – cannot afford to make ends meet and are living in poverty.

“It is sickening that the 14.3 million people currently living in poverty includes 9 million living in families where one or more adults is working.”

About 5 million workers in the UK are represented by union delegates attending the TUC Congress.