Tag Archives: workers’ rights

Liberal Democrats should support trade unions and strike action

I was delighted that a policy motion written by myself, and the Young Liberals Social Mobility representative, Emily Baker, passed with an overwhelming majority at Young Liberals Summer Conference in Birmingham.

At our winter conference in Edinburgh in February, we passed a motion showing  solidarity with the University & Colleges Union.  Emily and I thought that in light of the Federal Party’s response to the RMT strikes, a similar motion ought to be brought to our Summer Conference in an expression of our support for the union.

To be completely candid, the Lib Dem response to these strikes made me hugely sceptical about my place in the Party. The protection of Trade Union and employment rights, including the right to strike, are absolute fundamental liberal values that I’m completely unwilling to compromise. I thought better of quitting. Instead, bringing this motion to our conference alongside Emily, was our way to ‘sticking it to the establishment’ in fairly characteristic YL style. We are both thrilled about the support of YL members in both their speeches and in the vote.

The motion calls for our express support for the industrial action taking by the RMT; our support for industrial action across other sectors where businesses fail to negotiate, and members are balloted in support of industrial action; and to reaffirm our support for the Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists.

 It’s become clearer that industrial action across sectors is increasingly likely: Royal Mail staff are heading for the picket, teachers are balloting for industrial action, Arriva bus drivers in the North West have been out on the picket line for 25 continuous days at the time of writing. Amendments to this motion submitted by James Green and Joe Norris, as well as English Young Liberals Chair, Oliver Jones-Lyons, have helpfully fleshed the motion out to include affirming our support for a variety of different Trade Unions and moved that Liberal Democrats should not oppose a General Strike if there are further restrictions on the right to strike.

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17 March 2022 – today’s (other) press release

P&O Ferries: Govt must step in

Responding to the announcement of P&O Ferries laying off 800 workers with immediate effect, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

Today’s underhanded action by P&O is an attack on workers. It is an absolute outrage.

This is simply not an acceptable way to treat employees and the government must step in urgently to help reduce tensions and bring people back to the table.

If the current owners cannot manage this company properly then the government needs to consider how a more responsible owner can be brought in.

Clearly the Conservatives also need to tighten up

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Rees-Mogg, Grenfell and Catholic social teaching

The Brexit of the Johnsons and Rees-Moggs of this world will free Britain from “the manacles” of the EU. This will enable Brexit to be used to slash and burn all those pesky regulations designed to protect workers’ rights. Johnson has now left them to be discussed in the non-binding political declaration, no longer preserved by the legally binding withdrawal agreement. Rees-Mogg concurs. 

Jacob Rees-Mogg is visible as a devout Catholic, sometimes ostentatiously so. But the social teaching of his church is set squarely against this Brexit vision, since it is often regulations inspired in part by Catholic social teaching that constitute those “manacles” of the EU. 

Modern Catholic Social Teaching evolved as a Christian response to industrial poverty in the late nineteenth century. Its principles chime impeccably with liberalism. Workers have the right to solidarity with each other (collective bargaining, trade unions), whilst private property is to be respected and entrepreneurship encouraged because it creates wealth. A collaboration between capital and labour that is fair and comprehensive is essential. The State also needs to be involved. As Pope St. John Paul II put it in Centesimus Annus in 1991: “the marketplace needs to be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.” 

He also taught that the State, “has…the duty to protect the rights of all its people, and particularly of its weaker members, the workers, women and children. It can never be right for the State to shirk its obligation of working actively for the betterment of the condition of .”    

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Labour MPs surely can’t support the bonfire of workers’ rights in Boris Johnson’s deal

One of the many compelling reasons to stay in the EU (alongside peace and prosperity) is the protection that workers get from being in the single market.

To create a level playing field, there are minimum standards on things like maternity leave, TUPE (protection if your job is outsourced), working hours and paid holidays. Certainly our current law goes beyond the minimum protections in many ways. However, if we leave the EU, all bets are off. We simply can’t trust the most right wing government in living memory with workers’ rights.

If our rights were safe, surely they would at least have kept in the pretty weak protections Theresa May put in to try and entice Labour MPs to vote for it.

But, no. The author of Article 50, John Kerr, told the Edinburgh March for Europe in September that UK negotiators had asked for all the labour, social and environmental protections to be removed from the Withdrawal Agreement..

The People’s Vote campaign outlined the other day exactly what the differences were. There’s a lot of shall and should in the previous version. Now it’s more “these are a thing.”

The first quote is from Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement

“With the aim of ensuring the proper functioning of the single customs territory, the Union and the United Kingdom shall ensure that the level of protection provided for by law, regulations and practices is not reduced below the level provided by the common standards applicable within the Union and the United Kingdom at the end of the transition period in the area of labour and social protection and as regards fundamental rights at work, occupational health and safety, fair working conditions and employment standards, information and consultation rights at company level, and restructuring.”

What Boris Johnson’s legally-binding Withdrawal Agreement says on workers’ rights:

“AIMING at continuing to promote balanced economic and social development in the area, in particular in terms of labour conditions, and continuing to ensure the highest levels of environmental protection in accordance with Union law”

 TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady condemned the proposals and called for MPs to reject the deal:

I understand this is a difficult time. But defending working people’s rights is at the heart of everything trade unions believe in. For the sake of working families now and in the future, we can’t support a deal that will trash those rights. We ask MPs to vote against it.

And our Chuka Umunna made an apt analogy on Twitter:

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What European liberals have achieved over the past five years – the economy

Given how little coverage there has been in the British media of the work of the European Parliament, it comes as no surprise that few voters know what it does. Luckily, the ALDE Group in the Parliament have produced a guide to their achievements since the last European election in 2014, and I’m going to take the opportunity to highlight some of them today.

More stable financial markets

Scandals around the manipulation of the LIBOR and foreign exchange benchmarks, as well as the alleged manipulation of other indices, has highlighted the importance of benchmarks and their vulnerabilities. ALDE led negotiations …

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A fair deal for our care workers

The nation’s care workers are getting a raw deal and have been for some years now. This has been highlighted by many including our own party’s Health and Social Care Working Group. In ten years overseeing the care of someone in need of help I saw at first hand the reality of life for those at the sharp end. What I witnessed was nothing short of a scandal.

Workers paid just the minimum wage, expected to do extradinarily long shifts which took no account of working time regulations, travel time unpaid, breaks if they actually had them spent doing paperwork and …

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5 March 2019 – yesterday’s press releases

We’re running a bit late today, mainly because a number of these releases were embargoed until after midnight…

  • Tory cuts are forcing schools to beg and borrow from communities – Moran
  • Lib Dems: Tories failing to fund adult social care
  • Tory cuts driving down quality of care homes
  • Govt must act to prevent another Windrush
  • Make school uniforms gender neutral – Lib Dems
  • Davey: End ‘right to rent’ checks and Hostile Environment
  • Swinson: PM’s guarantees to protect workers’ rights not worth the paper they’re written on

Tory cuts are forcing schools to beg and borrow from communities – Moran

Responding to reports that parents are being asked …

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16-17 February 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

Lib Dems: Divert our flightpath away from Brexit mess

Responding to reports that the East Midlands airline FlyBMI has collapsed amid the uncertainty caused by Brexit, Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake said:

While the Government claim that Brexit provides the opportunity to create a Global Britain, the evidence is to the contrary; FlyBMI are naming Brexit as one of the reasons for their demise.

The truth is, any Brexit is bad for UK Plc, and puts jobs and livelihoods at risk. It is time to divert our flightpath away from this crisis, with a People’s Vote and a chance to exit

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ICYMI: Jo tears into Theresa May for claiming credit for shared parental leave

Jo Swinson was on stellar form in the Commons this week. In her latest procrastination statement, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for shared parental leave.

As we know, it was Jo who, as a Business Minister, delivered that against the wailing opposition of the Conservatives. So she naturally took exception to the PM’s claim.

And afterwards, with the help of some excellent gifs, she took to Twitter to rip the Tories to shreds on workers’ rights. She highlighted the times in the coalition when we fought against them. And there was a touch of humility as she said that we might not always have got it right, but we sure as hell battled every day. Here’s are the highlights:

This is my favourite:

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The Liberal Plan for Worker Co-Ownership

During the 2018 Labour Conference delegates passed a policy motion in which the workers of any given company would be entitled to own 10% of its stock. This, on the face of it, is not something that liberals would be entirely against. Indeed, it was David Lloyd George who, in 1908, settled a rail strike by creating boards which were formed between worker groups and the bosses on an equal parity – 50% worker, 50% bosses. The whole idea of worker cooperatives is also something which we in the Liberal Democrats are in full support, with Nick Clegg saying that he wished to create a “John Lewis economy” as late as 2012. If we look a little deeper, but not by much, we see what Labour’s plan truly is.

There is an insidious proviso in that policy. The stock dividend is capped at £500 per annum. This means that if a stock pays over this dividend, say £600, the state is then entitled to take £100 straight from the pocket of the worker. That money will then be used, presumably, for whatever this new government wishes, be that rail nationalisation or lost to the financial black hole that is the current NHS. Additionally, these stocks cannot be bought and sold. This, of course, means that the worker cannot expand their portfolio to include a wide range of investments in other newly formed cooperatives and, instead, simply leads to the creation of closed shops on a scale heretofore unseen. In short – this plan is nothing short of state mandated theft.

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Workers’ Councils – one way to take back control of our economy

When Theresa May suggested that businesses ought to set up workers’ councils, she was said by many commentators to be moving to the centre ground, perhaps to hoover up centrist voters put off by Labour’s leftwards drift. Whatever the political motivations, it is an extremely interesting idea. Is it one that liberals should support? Absolutely, because it can help people take back control — in a meaningful way.

A lesson from the EU referendum was that many people are dissatisfied with the economic system. The slogan “Take Back Control” was vague to the point of meaninglessness, but psychologically potent for people …

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