Monday, 9 March 2015

Labour Party responds to questions from the Prospect union.

Prospect: Union for professionals

The general election is fast approaching and before people get bored with it there is a real need to pay attention, especially those of us in the trade unions and the public sector.

The Prospect union has launched a website to get answers from the political parties about the issues that concern us.

Labour Party answers to election questions

The Labour Party is the first national party to respond to general election questions drawn up by the union earlier in this year.

1. Prospect has published a manifesto for good work. Do you support our manifesto and what will you do to implement it?

The Prospect manifesto for good work highlights a number of problems in the labour market, including growing insecurity, the prevalence of zero-hours contracts and stagnating wages. Tackling these issues is a priority for Labour.

Fairness in the workplace, to build long-term productive workforces, will be a priority for the next Labour Government. That’s why we’ve set out plans to abolish exploitative zero-hours contracts, increase the National Minimum Wage, and encourage more employers to pay a living wage.

More broadly Labour want to see representatives of employees, employers and other stakeholders building genuine partnerships that help to raise productivity and tackle Britain’s low skill, low wage culture. For this reason the next Labour Government will work to ensure working people have the capability to address workplace issues more effectively.

2. Research has shown that the early influence of the health and safety regulator and trades unions involved in constructing the London Olympics site helped secure contractor ‘buy in’ to the business case for a healthy, productive workforce that ensured the Olympic park was built without loss of life, on time, sustainably and to international acclaim. How would your future government ensure the Olympic learning is embedded within UK businesses, including government setting by example, to reduce the toll on our NHS, UK plc and the lives of workers and their families of preventable occupational ill health, injury and death?

Labour believes in safe and healthy workplaces and are committed to reducing the toll of workplace injuries, fatalities and ill-health. To achieve this we will ensure that the prevention of occupational illnesses, diseases and long-term health conditions are given priority and that no workplace is free from inspections by health and safety authorities, with a better independent inspection regime for perceived low-risk workplaces.

Labour will also ensure that all self-employed workers are properly protected, and that the Health and Safety Executive can operate as an effective enforcement agency.

3. The number of claims to Employment Tribunals has fallen by over 70% since fees were introduced, which demonstrates that fees are a substantial barrier to access to justice for working people. Will you support the abolition of fees for Employment Tribunals?

The current employment tribunal system, which charges workers for taking their employers to court, is unfair, unsustainable, and has resulted in prohibitive costs locking people out of the justice they are entitled to. But it would be a mistake to return to the broken system of the past, where tribunals were so slow that meaningful justice was not available. The next Labour Government will reform the employment tribunal system to ensure that all workers have proper access to justice.

4. Do you agree that zero hours contracts for workers should be regulated by law, so that the 1.4m people who are on zero hours contracts are protected from the exploitative elements and used appropriately so that both employee and employer benefit from the flexibility they provide.

With Labour, exploitative zero-hours contracts will be abolished with rules introduced to give new rights to employees on zero-hours contracts, including the right to receive automatically a fixed-hours contract when they have consistently worked regular hours.

We will ban employers from being able to require zero-hours workers to be available on the off-chance that they will be needed and prevent employees from being required to work exclusively for one firm if they are on a zero-hours contract.

Labour will also ensure that zero-hours workers who have their shifts cancelled at short notice receive compensation from their employer.

5. Do you agree that government should leverage its own procurement to ensure that suppliers and contractors operate sustainably and offer a commitment to provide good opportunities for apprenticeships and graduate trainees.

Labour is committed to a positive public procurement process that supports local and national employment, job protection and creation, apprenticeships, skills and growth as well as social, economic and environmental considerations.

The next Labour government will insist on a wider social contribution from those receiving major government contracts, including:

· ensuring the provision of high quality apprenticeships are a pre-requisite for any bid for significant government contracts;

· ensuring that central government learns from the experience of Labour Councils of using procurement to encourage employers to pay the living wage

6. What role do you see for modern trade unions in the economy and in wider society?

Trade unions are an important voice for people at work and in wider society, and have a central role to play in boosting training, pay and conditions for their members and helping Britain win the race to the top. At a time of rapid global economic change and a cost of living crisis at home, it is vital that the UK continues to have strong and modern trade unions as a genuine voice fighting against discrimination and abuse.

Labour is clear about the positive role the trade union movement plays in delivering fairness, safe working conditions and supporting productivity in the workforce.

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