Theresa May promises a ‘new deal for workers’

15 May

Mrs May, who is trying to position herself as the politician on the side of working people, will commit to increasing the National Living Wage – currently £7.50 an hour – in line with average earnings until 2022.

The Conservative party did not say how much that would mean in real terms, although George Osborne, the former chancellor, said in 2015 he expected it to hit £9 by 2020. Labour has promised to increase the National Living Wage to £10 by 2020.

Mrs May also reiterated her commitment, outlined in the letter she sent to the EU formally triggering Brexit talks, to fully maintain all workers’ rights guaranteed by EU law after Britain quits the club.


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The Conservatives said the manifesto promises – to be unveiled in full this week – would represent the “greatest expansion of workers’ rights by any Conservative government”.

Her package will also include a commitment to protect workers’ pensions in the wake of the BHS scandal; a new right to request leave for training purposes; a right to leave for workers who suffer the tragedy of losing a child and the introduction of returnships for people coming back into work after a period of time off.

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Mrs May will also change the Equalities Act to extend protections from discrimination to those suffering fluctuating or intermittent mental health conditions. She will also outline new protections for those working in the “gig economy” – such as Uber drivers – following a review led by Matthew Taylor, the former advisor to Tony Blair.


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But Mrs May’s attempt to pitch herself as the champion of “ordinary working people” comes as analysis suggests that low income working families face significant reductions in income as a result of planned cuts to benefits, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

“In brief, since 2010 “middle income” and pensioners protected, richest hit hard, poorer working age families about to be hit very hard,” tweeted Paul Johnson, director of the IFS on Sunday.

The think-tank says a cash freeze in benefit rates, cuts to child tax credits and roll-out of the “less generous” universal credit signals “large losses” for low-income families.

The analysis found one million households with children and no one in work would be £3,000 worse off, while three million working households with children currently entitled to tax credits would be on average £2,500 worse off. A further four million households with children not entitled to tax credits would be £100 a year worse off.

Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s campaigns and elections chair, said the Prime Minister was “taking working people for fools”.

“Theresa May and her Tory government have failed to stand up for workers, with hundreds of thousands not being paid the money owed to them, thousands unable to get their case against their employer heard and hundreds of complaints of employment agency malpractice going uninvestigated.

“The Tories have spent the last seven years prioritising the few, opposing Labour’s proposals to give workers more rights and overseeing wage stagnation which has left people worse off.”

Sir Vince Cable
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Vince Cable was among those to criticise the plans

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor, was equally scathing.

“The Conservatives tried to ban workers from striking and were blocked by the Liberal Democrats in government,” said the former business secretary who clashed with Number 10 over workers’ rights in the coalition years.

“It’s clear they aren’t the party of workers’ rights and that you can’t trust them to care about you and your family.”

Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union, was equally sceptical saying “the greatest extensions of workers’ rights by a Tory government frankly wouldn’t be that hard to achieve given recent history”.

He said the Tories should “end the public sector pay pinch” if they really want to prove the lot of working Britain as he urged the Conservatives to “commit to a real living wage that people can live on without claiming benefits – all of which Labour has pledged to do. And let’s not forget, a lot of the problems working people face day in day out were caused by Tory austerity policies in the first place”.


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Pay rises in the public sector are capped at 1% a year until 2020, which could see 5.4 million public sector workers see a real-terms cut in their wages as a decade of pay restraint and high inflation eats into their living standards.

But Mrs May’s proposals was given a cautious welcome by the Trade Union Congress, which described the measures as a “promising set of commitments” but said workers needed to see the details before they cast their votes.

Mrs May, on tour in southern England, will say on Monday: “There is only one leader that will put rights and opportunities for working families first. The choice is clear: economic stability and a better deal for workers under my Conservative team, or chaos under Jeremy Corbyn.”

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