Unions welcome Labour pledge to help gig economy workers

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Unions have warmly welcomed a pledge by Labour to “transform” workers’ rights, with special help for millions in the so-called gig economy.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell received a standing ovation from the TUC Congress in Manchester when he laid out a series of measures aimed at “tipping the balance” from employers to workers.

A Labour government would ban zero-hours contracts, repeal the Trade Union Act, clamp down on bogus self-employment, end Private Finance Initiatives and set up a new Employment Department to drive forward the polices, he said.

He added: “It’s time to tip the balance to the workers. It is the biggest extension of individual collective rights our country has ever seen. It will transform the workplace and workers’ rights.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Every decent person in the country should applaud the proposals set out by John McDonnell.

“The impact on families and workers when work has been casualised, as it has been for millions in this country today, is appalling.

“It is simply not right for the sixth richest country on earth to have allowed a situation to develop whereby a worker only knows if he or she will earn a wage that day when they get a text message to tell them that they have a shift.”

Paddy Lillis, general secretary of the shopworkers union Usdaw, said: “We welcome the commitment to help workers on zero and short-hours contracts by requiring employers to guarantee a minimum number of hours for their staff.

“It is clear that Labour fully understands the problems low-paid workers have in getting enough hours to make a weekly wage they can live on.”

Mr McDonnell said workers in the gig economy will be given the same rights as other employees including sick pay and parental leave under a Labour government.

He criticised the Government’s Taylor Report into employment for “ignoring” trade unions.

He said: “Even if the Government adopt every positive recommendation in Taylor, it will not be enough because the most effective way to improve the lives of working people is through trade unions and collective action.

“Just because you don’t work regular hours doesn’t mean you can afford not to work when you are sick.

“Just because you work several jobs doesn’t mean you can afford to lose one of them without warning.

“Just because you value the freedom of independence or the convenience of flexibility doesn’t mean you have to forgo basic rights.”

Mr McDonnell said the burden of proof should be shifted so that the law treats gig staff as workers unless the employer can prove otherwise.

He added that the Conservatives have stripped back employment rights to a level not seen since the economic depression of the 1930s.

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