A Fair Deal for Workers

Jack Sargeant MS

Jack Sargeant MS for Alyn and Deeside

This week I will lead a debate in the Senedd on a “Fair deal for workers.” It is a title I chose and sums up what much of what my politics is about. I am a proud trade union member and joint chair of the Senedd Unite Group of MS’s.

I chose this topic because after a year of incredible sacrifices from working people, the settlement we have arrived at is not a fair one. Employers still too often adopt practices that have no place in 21st Century Wales. As Labour politicians it is frankly our reason for being to do something about this.

Beyond that though, we need to develop a new way of working between government and trade unions to ensure that we build back the fairer society we all want to see. I spend a lot of time working with trade union members and activists in my constituency and what always strikes me is their knowledge, compassion and their practical focus for a better tomorrow. We must harness this more.

In my speech I will focus on two things that I think are totemic for those that want to build a fairer deal for workers, ending fire and rehire and adopting a Social Partnership approach. Before I do though I want to mention one other absolute prerequisite for a fairer society. We must encourage and actively seek more Labour candidates from the shop floor — with a proven track record of workplace trade unionism.

At all levels of elected representation our party is stronger when such candidates come forward. The practical experience and passion for change that workplace reps bring with them is invaluable. As is experience of the shop floor.

Over the last year we are sadly hearing more and more about fire and rehire, I am absolutely disgusted that any employer would think this an acceptable thing to do. To threaten working people with the sack if they do not accept a diminution in pay and conditions should not be lawful. Yet we have seen a number of employers opt to betray their workforce and seek to push this scenario. It says something quite profound about where we are as a country that such practices exist and are widespread. Often these are employers that are making large profits and are simply seeking to maximise them at the expense of their workforce.

We must unite to defeat this attack on working people and instead look to build a better way of going froward with a future of partnership, where working people have a real seat at the table through the organisations that represent them, trade unions.

The Social Partnership proposals coming forward in Wales do exactly this and are the second strand I will discuss in my calls for a fairer deal. This is not a woolly concept and Social Partnership is set to be put on a statutory footing here in Wales. Putting collective bargaining at the heat of our efforts to tackle poverty by addressing route causes like zero hours contracts and fake self-employment foisted on so many gig economy workers.

At its heart social partnership achieves this by formalising a mature and progressive relationship between employers, government, and unions. This is a fantastic opportunity and as socialists we should be excited and proud in equal measure.

Some more good news to finish on, I read recently that trade union membership is growing. Trade Unions are far more than the organisations that pool together millions of individual workers subs to fund the party of Labour, they are the real driver for positive change in our recent history. Long may this growth in membership continue.

This week I will lead a debate in the Senedd on a “Fair deal for workers.” It is a title I chose and sums up what much of what my politics is about. I am a proud trade union member and joint chair of the Senedd Unite Group of MS’s.

I chose this topic because after a year of incredible sacrifices from working people, the settlement we have arrived at is not a fair one. Employers still too often adopt practices that have no place in 21st Century Wales. As Labour politicians it is frankly our reason for being to do something about this.

Beyond that though, we need to develop a new way of working between government and trade unions to ensure that we build back the fairer society we all want to see. I spend a lot of time working with trade union members and activists in my constituency and what always strikes me is their knowledge, compassion and their practical focus for a better tomorrow. We must harness this more.

In my speech I will focus on two things that I think are totemic for those that want to build a fairer deal for workers, ending fire and rehire and adopting a Social Partnership approach. Before I do though I want to mention one other absolute prerequisite for a fairer society. We must encourage and actively seek more Labour candidates from the shop floor — with a proven track record of workplace trade unionism.

At all levels of elected representation our party is stronger when such candidates come forward. The practical experience and passion for change that workplace reps bring with them is invaluable. As is experience of the shop floor.

Over the last year we are sadly hearing more and more about fire and rehire, I am absolutely disgusted that any employer would think this an acceptable thing to do. To threaten working people with the sack if they do not accept a diminution in pay and conditions should not be lawful. Yet we have seen a number of employers opt to betray their workforce and seek to push this scenario. It says something quite profound about where we are as a country that such practices exist and are widespread. Often these are employers that are making large profits and are simply seeking to maximise them at the expense of their workforce.

We must unite to defeat this attack on working people and instead look to build a better way of going forward with a future of partnership, where working people have a real seat at the table through the organisations that represent them, trade unions.

The Social Partnership proposals coming forward in Wales do exactly this and are the second strand I will discuss in my calls for a fairer deal. This is not a woolly concept and Social Partnership is set to be put on a statutory footing here in Wales. Putting collective bargaining at the heart of our efforts to tackle poverty by addressing route causes like zero hours contracts and fake self-employment foisted on so many gig economy workers.

At its heart social partnership achieves this by formalising a mature and progressive relationship between employers, government, and unions. This is a fantastic opportunity and as socialists we should be excited and proud in equal measure.

Some more good news to finish on, I read recently that trade union membership is growing. Trade Unions are far more than the organisations that pool together millions of individual workers subs to fund the party of Labour, they are the real driver for positive change in our recent history. Long may this growth in membership continue.

The Fabian Society in Wales