The following two motions were passed at Young Labour policy conference in October, building on the policy passed by Labour Party conference in September. For more on campaigning to repeal the anti-union laws and win strong workers’ rights including a strong right to strike, see here.
Proposed by Alex Stuart
Young Labour notes
1. That on 4 September, members of the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers’ Union at McDonald’s branches in Cambridge and Crayford struck for £10 an hour, secure contracts with guaranteed hours, and union recognition, as well as grievances over bullying from management. Attempting to live on low wages, with no guaranteed hours, has meant that some young employees have found themselves unable to meet their rent payments and have become homeless as a result.
2. We also note the ongoing, year-long struggle by Picturehouse cinema workers (part of cineworld) to win the Living Wage, decent maternity and sick pay, and union recognition, as well as the reinstatement of four sacked union reps. This Summer has seen a flurry of strikes, from cleaners at London universities and hospitals to BA cabin crew, London buses, rail workers, Sellafield nuclear workers, Fawley oil refinery, TAs in Durham and Derby, teachers at Forest Hill School and refuse workers in Birmingham and Doncaster.
3. Labour supports these and other workers’ struggles, and has committed to a £10/hour minimum wage, banning zero hours contracts, and a rights at work charter. At this year’s Trades Union Congress Jeremy Corbyn urged young people to join a union and get organised at work as the most effective way to fight precariousness and low pay.
4. As of 1 April 2017, the National Living Wage of £7.50 is obligatory only for workers over 25, with 21-24 year olds getting £5.60 for ages 18-20 and £4.05 for under 18s. Apprentices under 19, or in their first year, are entitled to £3.50 per hour. There is no minimum wage for under 16s. Over recent years, trade unions have successfully negotiated the removal of these differential youth rates from many agreements ensuring that young workers are paid the same as over 25s.
Young Labour believes
1. That young people should not be discriminated against through lower rates of pay – all youth rates should be abolished. The National Living Wage should be replaced with a universal living wage of £10 per hour. This starts with supporting and spreading young workers’ struggles now. Labour should proudly support and encourage strikes as something positive in terms of workers standing up for themselves, and organise a big drive to draw young people into unions and workplace organising.
2. For these struggles to be effective, we must restore our right to strike effectively. Labour should pledge to scrap all anti-union laws and introduce a strong legal charter of workers’ rights – to unionise; win recognition and collective bargaining; strike, for purposes of workers’ own choosing including in solidarity with other workers and for political goals; and picket freely.
Proposed by Leigh Drennan
Young Labour notes
1) Trade union membership has, for individual workers, a quantifiable social and economic premium.
2) Union members, on average, get higher rates of pay than non-union members, work in safer workplaces, have more control over terms and conditions, and better sickness and pension benefits.
3) In spite of these benefits to workers, trade union membership has been falling for the past forty years, as a result of a sustained offensive from employers and reactionary governments.
4) A number of legal changes, ranging from Thatcher’s 1980 Employment Act to the 2016 Trade Union Act, have served to weaken working people’s right to withdraw their labour and take industrial action against their employer.
5) This weakening of the labour movement has been a cause and symptom of a weakening of the Labour Party, with working people being exposed to a more individualistic and fragmented political culture, as opposed to the collectivism of the trade union movement.
Young Labour believes
1) Allowing trade unions to organise and represent their members aggressively and effectively is vital both for defending and advancing the living standards of working people, as well as building support for socialist politics.
2) Unless the Labour Party stakes out a bold, positive policy position, the Tories will continue to be able to undermine public support for trade unionism and trade unionists.
3) The Labour Party should commit not only to repealing the 2016 but the legislation introduced by Margaret Thatcher and John Major in the 1980s and 1990s.
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