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Labour manifesto pledges improved workers’ rights

The Labour party has pledged improved workers’ rights in its election manifesto, now officially launched.

The manifesto promises to raise the minimum wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019, abolish high employment tribunal fees, and ban zero-hours contracts, a pledge already revealed.

“We will give local authorities a role in strengthening enforcement against those paying less than the legal amount,” the manifesto stated regarding raising the minimum wage.

It continued: “Our Make Work Pay contracts will give tax rebates to businesses who sign up to paying the living wage in the first year of a Labour government. Publicly listed companies will be required to report on whether or not they pay the living wage.”

On enhancing job security, pay, and skills, the manifesto said: “…Conservative policies are causing whole sectors of the economy to be dragged into a race to the bottom on wages and skills. The government has weakened employment rights and promoted a hire-and-fire culture. Labour believes our economy can only succeed in a race to the top – competing in the world with better work, better pay and better skills.”

The manifesto also pledged:

  • A 50p tax rate on incomes over £150,000 a year and the abolition of non-dom status. Rises in National Insurance were ruled out
  • To restrict tax relief on pension contributions for the highest earners
  • To keep the triple-lock so that the state pension increases level with inflation, earnings, or 2.5%, whichever is highest
  • To tackle the growth of unpaid internships
  • Twenty-five hours of childcare for working parents of three- and four-year-olds and a new right to pre- and after-school help
  • A Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, providing a paid starter job for every young person unemployed for more than a year, which they will have to take or lose benefits
  • To re-focus existing apprenticeship spending away from low-level apprenticeships for older people towards a system focused on new job entrants
  • To cut, and then freeze business rates for more than 1.5 million smaller business properties while maintaining corporation tax for “the largest firms"

Among those welcoming the manifesto’s pledges was trade union GMB. General secretary Paul Kenny said: "At long last we have a major political party prepared to address and give rights to workers to shield them from exploitation in their workplaces."

But some voiced concerns over Labour compromising the UK’s flexible labour market.

Confederation for British Industry (CBI) director-general John Cridland said: “Labour’s manifesto includes a number of proposals that are positive for business... but market interventions in labour and other specific sectors, together with signals on corporation tax, are a cause for concern.”

He added: “When it comes to setting the national minimum wage the independent Low Pay Commission, not politicians, should be in the lead to ensure any increases are affordable.”

The Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion said that it was “pleased to see that the Party has committed to tackling the growth of unpaid internships” but that it was “concerned about the Labour party’s proposal to remove funding for apprenticeships and training for older workers.”

Regarding Labour’s pension pledges, Tom McPhail, head of pensions research at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Reading between the lines, there are clear messages for pensioners, for pension investors and for the pensions industry. Your pensioner benefits are safe, unless you are a wealthy pensioner; if you are a wealthy worker then it makes sense to make the most of the pension tax breaks currently available while you still can.”