"Big Four" demands: "confidential" but not confident

Submitted by Anon on 23 June, 2004 - 12:48

In Solidarity 3/52 we reported how the leaders of Britain's biggest trade unions, Amicus, GMB, TGWU and Unison, had drawn up demands for the manifesto Labour should stand on in the next general election. We now have a copy of that manifesto, although it remains "private and confidential".
It does not include, for example, a promise to repeal the Thatcherite anti-trade union laws that Labour keeps in place in order to cow union members and prevent them taking effective action in pursuit of their goals. The trade union leaders' demands do not include a promise to tax the rich and private enterprise to pay for desperately needed public services. Where they do include good things, the language is vague.

Of course, even this "trade unions agenda" would be better than what Labour offers voters and what they expect their remaining labour movement supporters, grouped in the trade unions and individually, to canvass for on doorsteps and in workplaces.

We cannot see why this manifesto should remain private. Such ideas deserve to be discussed by the movement as a whole, as soon as possible, and so we print the "summary demands" of the manifesto in full, so that trade union members can see exactly what is and is not being demanded in their name.

A trade union agenda for Labour's radical third term

Britain needs a third term Labour victory to ensure that economic stability and social justice - the two pillars that underpin this Labour Government - are maintained and built upon.

Working people in Britain need a third term for Labour. They need a Government committed to delivering a fair deal at work for them; a Government committed to tackling the growing gap between rich and poor; a Government committed to full employment and job security and to providing a decent pension for every citizen.

A third term Labour Government must ensure that investment in our public services is maintained and that Britain can have the world class public services that we all - Government, taxpayer and employee alike - know are achievable. This document sets out four key policy areas, which we believe should be the cornerstone of the manifesto on which Labour seeks a fresh mandate from the British people.

If adopted we believe that these policies will re-energise Labour's core support and connect with Labour voters in the heartlands. They will send a strong message of radical progress and social justice to every citizen in the UK - and they will form part of the "radical third term" manifesto that the Prime Minister has pledged to put before Britain.

Building world class public services

  • Markets and competition: an end to the costly policies of marketisation and privatisation epitomised by the discredited Private Finance Initiative.
  • Choice: good quality services close to home. Choice within directly provided public services must be distinguished from creating a competitive system which will undermine equity and create incentives to compete by cutting standards.
  • Public services: a substantial extension of the Early Years sector, with a significant increase in direct provision, and the introduction of free school meals for all our children.
  • Sustain capital investment: a substantially increased investment in our public infrastructure using new capital investment models to replace the PFI.
  • Staff, the key to improvement: better rewards and training for staff will boost recruitment and retention and are the key to public service improvement.
  • Affordable housing and integrated transport: tackling the affordable housing crisis using a diverse range of solutions and giving councils new powers to borrow to repair and improve council housing, together with adequate investment in an integrated transport system.
  • Fair wages: Labour must honour its promise to end the two-tier workforce and commit itself to signing ILO convention 94 paving the way for the introduction of the fair wages system in public contracting.
  • Corporate manslaughter: Labour should introduce legislation on corporate manslaughter.

A new settlement on pensions

  • Restoration of the earning link to the state pension
  • Action to promote and protect final salary schemes, with employees holding 50% of pension fund trustee places
  • A new compulsory pension scheme for all - with employer contributions of at least 10%
  • Targeted help for the lowest paid and women, giving all an incentive to save.

A vibrant manufacturing sector delivering prosperity for all

  • Full employment: in every region of the UK and a strong interventionist industrial policy to support our manufacturing base.
  • The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee: instructed to take account of industrial and regional employment patterns when setting interest rates.
  • Regional Development Agency and Regional Assembly would be required to develop a comprehensive strategy to promote manufacturing.
  • A level playing field for British industry: by developing a procurement policy and maximum state support that allows British industry to compete fairly across Europe.
  • Training: funding for integrated lifelong learning, vocational training and the statutory right to paid time off for training - a massive investment programme in modern apprenticeships - and a Statutory Training Levy introduced, where it can be demonstrated that employers are not tackling the skill problem within their sector.
  • Lifelong education opportunities: for working people in parallel with continuing record levels of investment in research and development.
  • A new national investment bank: along with a strategic review agency to oversee industrial development and to drive growth and expansion.

New rights for British citizens

  • Bring the UK into line with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions.
  • Extension of recognition laws to include small firms.
  • Individuals should also enjoy legal protection from day one at work, with the removal of the qualifying period for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights.
  • Help to close the gender pay gap by obliging employers to run equal pay audits.
  • Full enactment of the EU Temporary/Agency Workers Directive.
  • An end to the individual opt out from the Working Time Directive, not allow employers to count bank and public holidays as part of the four weeks statutory leave entitlement, and campaign to end the long hours culture in the UK.
  • Extension to Parental Leave, child, respite and elder care to enable parents and carers to mix work with caring responsibilities.
  • Strengthen and extend flexible working.
  • Help for low paid workers, including abolition of the Lower Earnings Limit, full rate of National Minimum Wage at 18.
  • Full and proper implementation of the Posting of Workers Directive.
  • Manifesto commitment that the Government recognises the positive contribution of trade unions and will assist them to grow.

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