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Keir Starmer addressed the TUC trade union congress this morning in which he repeated his pledge to increase the national minimum wage to £10 an hour.
The wage pledge is just one of a number of policies within the party’s “new deal” for workers which aims to capitalise on the experience of the past 18 months to usher in more fair and flexible ways of working.
A central theme in the Labour leader’s speech was providing people with “dignity at work” – a message he said was “personal to me” because of his father’s work as a toolmaker.
Alongside increasing the minimum wage are policies designed to give people a better work-life balance after many – frontline NHS and care workers in particular – were stretched to the limit during the coronavirus pandemic.
Starmer said a minimum wage increase would provide an immediate pay rise of more than £2,500 a year for a carer on minimum wage.
The Labour leader also addressed the issue of insecure work, where many working zero-hours contracts to not have the guarantee of a set number of working hours per day or week.
He said Labour would ban zero-hours contacts and replace them with regular hours contracts to reflect the time someone has put in. On top of that, basic rights to holiday pay, sick pay and protection from unfair dismissal would be enshrined in the new deal.
Parental leave will also be extended to all workers, while sick pay would be guaranteed and increased.
Starmer drew on the experiences of his father to sell his package to the TUC and Labour members and voters.
“Despite being a skilled toolmaker throughout his working life, my dad thought people looked down on him because he worked on the factory floor,” he said.
He said the Labour party, if in government, would “strive for better prospects and dignity for all workers, not just those with a degree”.
At the heart of this goal was making and selling more goods in Britain, with more public contracts going to British firms, he said, including the creation of 400,000 jobs in manufacturing and low carbon industries.
The Labour leader also criticised the government’s approach to workers, saying a culture of “fire and rehire” had been allowed to thrive during the past decade.
And he hit out at the plans to increase national insurance by 1.25 percentage points from next April.
“What has the government done for our key workers?” he asked.
“One in 10 at risk of fire and rehire, a cut of £1,000 a year in the incomes of working families on Universal Credit.
“A broken promise on national insurance raising taxes on working people; inadequate sick pay putting workers in the impossible position of choosing between going to work and feeding their family or isolating at home and protecting our public health; and an unjust pay cut for our key workers in the public sector.
“Carers, teaching staff, police officers – this is the thanks you get from the Tories.”