After 13 years of Tory failures in Westminster, our economy is weaker, our living standards are lower, and our country is poorer. Britain is clearly broken.
Over the weekend, our UNISON delegation spent long hours in intense negotiations with the Labour party at the National Policy Forum.
Our mission was to get UNISON’s priorities on pay, public services, social care, workers’ and trade union rights, and equalities into Labour’s policy platform for their next manifesto.
That manifesto must be election-winning, because despite Labour riding high in the polls over the past year, they’ve lost the last four general elections.
Throughout that time, our members’ lives have been made worse under successive Tory governments. We need a fundamental shift of power and prosperity back into workers’ hands.
Labour cannot return to austerity – we need investment, not ideologically-driven Tory cuts that weaken public services, our economy, and cause endemic low pay in our society.
We secured that anti-austerity commitment, which sets the scene on how Labour would govern. And the party’s pledge to start the biggest wave of insourcing will mean more public services will be back in public hands.
On pay, discriminatory adult age bands will be removed from the National Minimum Wage (NMW), and Labour will make sure the cost of living is part of the remit of the Low Pay Commission.
They’ve committed to enforcing NMW payments for travel time for those who work across multiple sites, and taking action on exploitative practices. Labour’s New Deal for Working People also committed to Fair Pay Agreements, and the first one of these will be in adult social care.
We’ve made sure that Labour in power will mean better things for local government. A different approach, where the proceeds of growth from a recovering economy will be channelled into the hearts of local communities. And a recognition that investment in local councils is key to generating that growth too. As part of their Take Back Control bill, they’ve committed to ensuring long-term stability in funding settlements for councils.
On education, we secured a commitment to establishing the School Support Staff Negotiating Body. Something I feel personally very strongly about, as I led the negotiations with the last Labour government to get this set up. Unfortunately, it was just before the 2010 general election, and so the Body fell when Labour lost the election.
Health and social care
As most of our members know, we’ve been campaigning for a National Social Care Service for many years. Labour have committed to establishing one that promotes public sector and non-profit service delivery, has zero tolerance for providers who extract huge profits in opaque and irresponsible ways, or have poor conditions for their workforce, and they’ll ensure national standards on pay and bargaining for care workers.
We’ve also secured commitments that the NHS will be safe in Labour’s hands, as a publicly-funded service, free at the point of use, and delivering secure healthcare for all. An unequivocal commitment that our NHS is not up for sale.
We went into the negotiations with a determination to get a decent equalities package. On behalf of UNISON, I’ve been asking the government to commit to the recommendations made in the Windrush Review. They aren’t budging, but Labour has given us that commitment for when they’re in government.
Labour’s new Race Equality Act will introduce ethnicity pay gap reporting and action plans for large employers. The same will also be true for disabled workers. Large firms will be required to develop, publish and implement action plans to close their gender pay gaps and they’ll ensure outsourced workers are included in their gender pay gap and pay ratio reporting.
Labour will ensure that reasonable adjustments are secured more quickly, they’ll honour the commitments of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Public Sector Equality Duty will extend to any contract carrying out public functions.
Anti-trade union laws
As the largest trade union in the UK, removing barriers and restrictions on trade unions recruiting, organising, and taking action is key for us. Removing anti-trade union laws and ensuring the right of access for trade unions will mean an important shift of power to something more fitting for a civilised society.
These are just some of the highlights of what we got out of the National Policy Forum process. UNISON worked jointly with all Labour’s affiliated unions to secure the best deal possible, but our work will carry on right up until the next general election.
We will continue to influence the Labour party, as they flesh out their election pledges, so our members can vote for a new government they can have confidence in to deliver a better future for them.