Drakeford pledges a ‘new social agenda’ for workers
WELSH Labour leadership frontrunner Mark Drakeford will today pledge to introduce legal changes that would increase the employment rights of Welsh workers.
Using the devolution settlement, a Social Partnership Act would allow the Welsh Government to insist on collective bargaining, living wage salaries and fair contracts of work at private sector firms that want contracts with it or financial aid from it. The Finance Secretary and Cardiff West AM, whose bid to become Welsh Labour leader and First Minister is backed by more than half of Labour’s Assembly group, will announce the promise during a launch of his policies at Northop in Flintshire.
He will make a specific commitment to put a Social Partnership Act on the statute book, to help stamp out abusive employment practices and to strengthen the Welsh way of trade unions, employers and the Welsh Government working together.
A spokesman for Mr Drakeford’s campaign said: “The idea is that it would be focused not only on the public sector, but also ethical procurement at both contract and sub-contract level, and the support available to private industry from Welsh Government. This would all be in conjunction with the Fair Work Commission.
“The legislative proposal will be based on the work that the Wales TUC is currently considering, which has been supported by Mick Antoniw, the former Counsel General for Wales, and which is engaging with senior legal academics and practitioners.
“This will ensure that the design of the Bill rests on the responsibilities devolved to the National Assembly for Wales – just as with the Trade Union Wales Act, which the UK Government decided not to challenge at the Supreme Court. The specific contents of the Bill will include implementation of Section 1 of the Equalities Act 2010.”
That section of the Act, which as yet does not apply to the Welsh Government, made public bodies “have due regard to the desirability of exercising [powers] in a way that is designed to reduce the inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage”.
In an article for the Echo’s sister paper, the Western Mail in July, Mr Drakeford said: “Each year we buy around £5bn of Welsh and local government services and contracts. This can be one of the catalysts we use to encourage business to buy into a new social agenda.
“We need to put the power of the public purse to work in ways which avoid the sort of catastrophic mistakes which led to the Carillion collapse, which puts quality of product, delivery and service at its core, an enforceable commitment to a real living wage, not just at contract level but all the way through the sub-contract system, ensuring that terms and conditions are not overridden or watered down.
“And that means proper contracts of employment, driving out false self-employment and gig economy devices, together with proper worker participation and representation through recognised trades unions and collective bargaining.”
Other policy pledges will include protecting jobs and the economy in any Brexit deal; creating new green jobs by making Wales a leader in renewable energy technology; simplifying support for businesses, cutting red tape and boosting local firms; setting up a Community Bank for Wales, providing loans to small businesses and banking facilities through a network of branches; and making sure that people can still come to Wales when there is a job waiting for them.
At today’s launch, Mr Drakeford will say: “I want to put tackling inequality at the heart of Labour’s economic action plan, because more equal societies do better economically and socially, with faster and fairer growth. That way we all prosper together, creating the fairer society which is the core mission of the Labour Party.”
Martin Mansfield, general secretary of the Wales TUC, said: “The Wales TUC isn’t politically affiliated, we don’t get involved in the internal elections of any party – however, on behalf of our 400,000 members, we have a lot to say to anyone who wants to lead Wales from whichever party.
“We want to see Wales become a fair work nation and we are working to achieve that through social partnership.
“Fair work is best guaranteed through collective bargaining – with workers getting access to union representation to ensure their voice is heard. That’s not just our view, it’s supported around the world by the United Nations and by unlikely union activists like the World Bank and OECD.
“While minimum wages and basic working rights are important and need to be enforced without exception, they don’t by themselves achieve fairness or deliver opportunity.
“The latest hourly minimum is not a ‘living wage’ if you can’t be sure how many hours you’ll get one day to the next.
“Union-negotiated agreements achieve fairness in reality – encouraging career progression, higher skills and delivering the proper rate for the job. We want government at every level to make fair work through social partnership a central principle of everything they do.
“If they are serious, then they should use every legislative, policy and funding lever they have to achieve fair work outcomes.
“Just ‘promoting and encouraging’ is not enough – serious results require serious government intervention. The Welsh trade union movement will work in partnership with employers and government to make Wales a fair work nation – but there has to be equal commitment from all three partners. There has to be a law to underpin fair work so we can see enforcement and delivery as well as incentive and encouragement.”