Keir Starmer pledges higher minimum wage and stronger workers’ rights, if Labour wins power
In a highly-personal speech to trade unions, Keir Starmer stressed the importance of “dignity at work” – referring to his own father and how people “looked down on him because he worked on the factory floor”.
The Labour leader also said sick pay would rise if he was in Downing Street, as part of a “new deal for workers”, although he declined to say by how much before a consultation.
Zero-hours contracts would be banned, parental leave extended and “fire and hire” – the practice of sacking staff before rehiring them on worse terms – would be outlawed.
Of his own upbringing, Sir Keir told the Trades Union Congress: “When I think about a new deal for workers I think of my dad. He worked on the factory floor all his life. Going to work at eight in the morning, home for tea at five, back to work six till 10 o’clock at night, five days a week. He did that to provide for our family.
“So the starting point is a job to raise a family on. That means a real living wage. Dignity at work, the theme of this congress, runs through our new deal. This is personal to me.”
The package of policies reiterated by the Labour leader included:
* Increasing the minimum wage to at least £10 per hour – up from £8.91, for over-22s – giving a carer on the minimum wage a pay rise of at least £2,500 a year.
* Expanding collectively-agreed pay deals to more workers – to boost their bargaining power.
* Giving workers basic rights from day one in the job.
* Replacing zero-hours contracts with regular working terms.
* Making parental leave and the right to flexible working available to workers from day one.
On sick pay, Sir Keir said: “We have one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe. That’s not good enough, so as well as guaranteeing sick pay, Labour’s new deal will increase it as well.”
The speech, to a TUC conference held online due to the Covid pandemic, comes ahead of the leader’s first, crucial in-person address to Labour’s conference later this month.
The TUC passed a motion to campaign for a three-day weekend and a four-day working week, following the announcement that the Scottish Government will launch four-day week trials.
It was tabled by the University and College Union (UCU) with supporting amendments added by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).