Jeremy Corbyn would require companies with more than 250 employees to accept new industrial laws under which they would have to recognise a specific union with which to bargain over pay.
Aides to the Labour leader said a Corbyn government would “repeal” 1999 union legislation that was passed by a Labour government to introduce a new French-style framework of union rights.
Writing in the Observer, Corbyn said change was made urgent by the corporate governance scandals involving Mike Ashley at Sports Direct and Philip Green at BHS, and the row over the decision by the Byron hamburger chain to help immigration officials arrest 35 of its staff who were working illegally in the country. “Even Theresa May understands she has to pay lip service to change in the workplace and the boardroom ...,” writes Corbyn.
“But the best way to guarantee fair pay is through strengthening unions’ ability to bargain collectively – giving employees the right to organise through a union and negotiate their pay, terms and conditions at work,” he writes.
“That’s why it should be mandatory for all large employers, with over 250 staff, to bargain collectively with recognised trade unions.”
Currently a union seeking recognition must show that 10% of employees are members and 50% want them to lead on pay bargaining. If that is not the case, a secret ballot is held and union recognition requires a majority of those voting and at least 40% of those eligible to vote to support recognition.
Corbyn also proposes that all employees be given guaranteed hours which must be specified and written into a contract – bringing an end to zero-hour contracts. If an employer wants workers to work beyond those hours, they must specify the length of additional work along with a reason for asking.
An employer will also have to give reasonable compensation, akin to an “on-call” payment to an employee, for agreeing to make themselves available for additional work, whether they are ultimately asked to do so or not.
“Economic failure is a central reason why people are no longer prepared to accept politics as usual, across the advanced industrial world,” Corbyn writes.
“It’s one of the reasons I was elected Labour leader in a landslide 10 months ago – and why there can be no going back to a broken economic model or the politics of the past.”
Meanwhile, the Labour leader yesterday spoke at a rally in Hull where he was accused by Karl Turner, Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East, of “bottling” an opportunity to debate with Owen Smith. The claim came after it emerged that the Labour party had agreed for Corbyn and Smith to meet at their first hustings at an event organised for Monday evening by Channel 4 News. But on Thursday, the Observer understands, Corbyn’s campaign said the Labour leader would not be available.
Turner told the Observer: “He’s good to speak to a crowd of people – well done, Jeremy – but what people need to see in the Labour party are hustings involving the two candidates. It needs to be a fair contest and members need to see the two candidates and currently Jeremy is bottling it.”
A source close to the Labour leader said the MP for Islington North would attend the official hustings arranged by the Labour party’s national executive committee, but that they withheld the right to reject additional events proposed by media organisations, even if Labour HQ had agreed to them.
The source said that Corbyn was in Liverpool on Monday night but that he also had the right to turn down hustings if he felt that the media organisation sponsoring it was hostile to his leadership. He added that it was not up to Labour party officials to dictate which media hustings the leader attended.
He said: “The exact role of the Labour party organisation in how they have played it since the coup has been a controversial one.”
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