Drake­ford pledges ‘new so­cial agenda’ for Welsh em­ploy­ees

Western Mail - - NEWS - MARTIN SHIP­TON Chief re­porter martin.ship­ton@waleson­line.co.uk

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 eco­nomic 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: “In terms of leg­isla­tive pro­pos­als, the idea is that it would be fo­cused not only on the pub­lic sec­tor it­self, 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, which will be able to ad­vise on how best to sup­port fair work within the de­volved con­text.

“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 so­cioe­co­nomic dis­ad­van­tage”.

In an ar­ti­cle for the Western Mail in July, Mr Drake­ford said: “Each year we buy around £5bn of Welsh and lo­cal gov­ern­ment ser­vices and con­tracts that can run from hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds to hun­dreds of thou­sands. 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. Be­com­ing a fair work na­tion would have ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits for work­ing peo­ple them­selves but would also have huge so­cial and eco­nomic ben­e­fits for Wales, with in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity, im­proved health and a more equal so­ci­ety – par­tic­u­larly as more women suf­fer from the worst kind of ca­sual and in­se­cure work.

“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.”

> Mark Drake­ford

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