Labour’s New Deal for Working People has “more holes than a Swiss cheese”

Striking UNISON members protesting at the Scottish parliament. Photo Philip Stott

The Labour Party has watered down its promises on workers’ and trade union rights, in keeping with the dumping of almost all the policies from the Corbyn era since Keir Starmer lied his way to the Labour leadership.

Sharon Graham, the Unite trade union General Secretary, described Starmer’s latest version of his New Deal for Working People as having “more holes than a Swiss cheese, the number of caveats and get outs means it is in danger of becoming a bad bosses’ charter”.

So, what does this New Deal for Working People actually commit Labour too? Some very modest new rights for those on zero-hour contracts or in bogus self-employment are the least you should expect from a “labour” party.

New individual leave rights for parents, carers and for family bereavement are vague, say nothing about how much will be paid leave (if any) or for how long.

Labour state that a new national minimum wage will be introduced, however no figure is given. Indications in the plan suggest £12 per hour, this is only 66p per hour more than the Tories current minimum wage. Hardly a significant approach to end in-work poverty during the worst cost of living crisis in decades.


The proposals to address “fire and rehire” are so weak and caveated that they are almost meaningless. Trade unions are outraged at this watering down. Labour say they will set-up a Fair Pay Agreement covering social care workers in England and Wales.

The SNP, as part of their shambolic plans for a National Care Service in Scotland, have made similar comments. Pay and conditions in the social care sector are largely poor and should be addressed. However, Starmer is likely to allow any new sectoral fair pay framework to be undermined by his friends in the huge corporate charities and private profit making companies that now dominate the sector, some of which are tax dodging, equity funds off-shored in places like the Cayman Islands.

Only by bringing all social care services into public ownership can wages and conditions be really driven up and on a permanent basis.

Labour say little about addressing poor pay and conditions in other jobs through fair pay agreements or sectoral collective bargaining. Nothing on hospitality. Nothing on tourism. Nothing on retail.

Some improvements in collective trade union rights are planned however these are limited. Abolishing the Tories minimum service levels is hardly radical, indeed many transport bosses thought it was a daft and unworkable idea in the first place.

Allowing electronic balloting is positive, however the practical and legal requirements that trade unions might face are not set-out.

The possible removal or reduction in strike ballot thresholds is alluded to, but again what any new requirements might be are not mentioned.

Either way, what about all the other anti-trade union legislation on strikes, notification periods, workplace and member categorisation, trade dispute restrictions, picketing and solidarity action?

Most of the collective rights section of Labour’s plan is all about “partnership working” between employers and workers – with nods to the capitalist EU arrangements which exploit workers in largely the same manner as in this country.

Attempts by capitalist governments and their big business friends to “partner” trade unions and workers into no-strike agreements, job losses and attacks on pay and conditions have a long history.

Little in Labour’s New Deal for Working People moves away from that approach. Under a Starmer government, the building of a trade union-based new workers’ party will be a vital task.

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July 2024