Labour frontbencher fails to deny claims party has watered down commitment to workers’ rights

Politics

A Labour frontbencher has failed to deny claims the party has watered down its key commitment to strengthen workers’ rights.

The Financial Times alleged leader Sir Keir Starmer has scaled back this commitment in an attempt to appease corporate backers, including by diluting his pledge to bolster the rights of gig workers.

This would mean rolling back on Labour’s promise to create a single category of “worker” for all those who are not self-employed, a change that was intended to secure “rights and protections” for all working people.

Asked about these reports on Sky News, the shadow schools minister Stephen Morgan said he could not comment.

Instead, he stressed Labour will be “pro-worker and pro-business”, adding that more detail will be set out in the party’s manifesto ahead of the upcoming general election.

He said: “Labour set out its five national missions. That has been approved by our national policy forum in July.

“Obviously we will set out more detail in our manifesto, but the Labour Party can be pro-worker and pro-business.

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“We have got a really good relationship with business now, we can be trusted to run our economy and to run our country, and we have got a set of policies which are pro-worker too.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to the Lind and Lime distillery in Leith, Edinburgh. Picture date: Monday August 14, 2023.
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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

The FT claims the pledge was diluted at Labour’s national policy forum in Nottingham last month, citing people familiar with the matter and related texts seen by the newspaper.

The document, agreed in July, will reportedly be published ahead of Labour’s Party Conference in October.

But extracts seen by the newspaper allegedly show how Labour has reined in its 2021 promise to create a single status of “worker” for all but the self-employed.

The policy will reportedly not be introduced immediately, and instead Labour will consult on the proposal and consider how this “simpler framework” could “properly capture the breadth of employment relationships in the UK”.

However, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has since insisted Labour remains committed to reforming workers’ rights.

She said: “Labour’s New Deal for Working People will be the biggest levelling-up of workers’ rights in decades – providing security, treating workers fairly, and paying a decent wage.

“I’m proud that we developed our comprehensive New Deal together with Labour’s affiliated unions. Far from watering it down, we will now set out in detail how we will implement it and tackle the Tories’ scaremongering.”

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Separately, the Conservative Campaign Headquarters has reportedly drawn up a list of 20 Labour policy proposals it considers “anti-business” – including the pledge allegedly watered down last month.

EMBARGOED TO 0001 WEDNESDAY MAY 31 File photo dated 07/09/22 of Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.
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Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch

It is anticipated that Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch will challenge these plans in the coming months.

But Labour has since hit back, telling Sky News this criticism is “desperate and inaccurate”.

A source added: “Last month’s National Policy Forum endorsed Keir Starmer’s programme, his five missions for government, and the fiscal rules that he and Rachel Reeves have set out.

“This is a serious, credible and ambitious policy programme that lays the groundwork for an election-winning manifesto and a mission-driven Labour government that will build a better Britain. That includes growing a strong economy by levelling-up workers’ rights and making work pay. There are no unfunded spending commitments in the document.”

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