As a Borough with a diverse multi-cultural white, and black and ethnic minority working class, there is every reason for Croydonians to vote Labour on Thursday to ensure that a strong social justice, equality and human rights conclusion is reached in the BREXIT negotiations.
‘We will prioritise jobs and living standards, build
a close new relationship with the EU, protect workers’
rights and environmental standards, provide certainty
to EU nationals and give a meaningful role to Parliament
throughout negotiations.’ (Labour manifesto)
‘We will drop the Conservatives’ Great Repeal Bill, replacing it
with an EU Rights and Protections Bill that will ensure there is no
detrimental change to workers’ rights, equality law, consumer
rights or environmental protections as a result of Brexit.’
The Conservative/Lib Dem and Conservative Governments since 2010 have eroded social justice and increased inequalities through austerity measures.
The working class – white & BME
According to the author of a report on race and class in post-Brexit Britain from the Runneymede Trust and the Centre for Labour and Social Studies, the label ‘white working class’ is not helping the white working class ‘ because it is all talk and no action. Central and local government need to adopt policies to benefit all working class communities. The report says that lack of access to jobs and opportunities binds black and ethnic minorities and poor white people together.
Suicides increasing among exploited workers
Suicide among certain working class groups on the rise. The risk of suicide among low-skilled male construction labourers in three times, and over double among skilled trades, plasters and decorators, higher than the male national average according to the Office for National Statistics.
The trade union UNITE believes that this is linked to “the industry’s hire and fire culture”. GMB says that process plant workers and care workers are also at risk, due to “unacceptable cultures of exploitation, poverty pay and insecurity”.
Support for the concern comes from the Samaritans in a report Dying from Inequality that ‘’suicide is killing the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people’ and that ‘involuntary part-time work, job insecurity and workplace downsizing are important risks for suicidal behaviour”.
The con of self-employment
It is likely that those in the GIG economy will increasingly become at risk because of the exploitation of vulnerable workers through bogus self-employment. GMB is taking legal action against UK Express on behalf of some of its drivers. If successful they were get basic entitlement to sick pay, the minimum wage, and holiday pay. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain has already won a case against Excel Group Services.
Suicides among workers
Suicides are the tip of the ice-berg represented by mental health problems that can be cause by being exploited and struggling to make ends meet.
Many workers on low pay cannot meet their bills. The trade union UNISON’s There for you charity gave over £30,000 to 600 members to help them pay their heating bills last year, with numbers of applicants rising.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady is calling for urgent action to stop another living standards crisis. “Pay packets are taking a hammering from rising inflation and falling wage growth”. “Wages are falling in real terms for both private and public sector workers, but the situation is made even worse in the public sector by the cruel and unnecessary pay caps introduced by the government, says Rehan Azam, the GMB national secretary of public services.
Although unemployment is continuing to fall there were still 1.56m unemployed people in February.
The danger of eroding workers’ protections even more
A big fear is that in the post-BREXIT solution a Conservative Government will erode the remaining protections for workers required of a members of the European Union. There are also concerns about the reduction in protection of equality and human rights standards according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission in a report Healing the visions: appositive vision for equality and human rights in Britain.
Equalities and human rights
The Commission wants a future Government to rule out the use of powers to repeal or amend equality and human rights laws without Parliament’s approval. It wants The Equality Act 2010 to be brought into force. It proposes a constitutional right to equality that every law and government action can be nested against. It also calls for the post-Brexit trade partnerships to contain a human rights and democracy clause to advance equality and human rights.
Racial discrimination at the work place
According an interim report Let’s talk about racism by Trades Union Congress racial harassment ‘still goes on in too many workplaces’, with bullying, racist abuse and violence, racist remarks and opinions, often by managers. It recommends that the Government develops a race equality strategy, and should abolish fees from employment tribunals to make it easier for BME workers to fight discrimination at work. According to Oxford business and legal academics the fees violate both UK and European law. The Supreme Court decision on Unison’s legal challenge held in March is awaited.
Labour’s manifesto promises include:
- massive infrastructure, house building and green technoliogies investment which will create jobs
- a cap on energy prices
- more prosecutions of employers evading the minimum wage
- a ban on zero hours contracts – so that every worker gets a guaranteed number of hours each week
- an increase of the Minimum Wage to the level of the Living Wage for all workers aged 18 or over, so that work pays
- abolition of the Public Sector Pay Cap
- abolition of employment tribunal fees – so that people have access to justice
- statutory rights for equalities reps so they have time to protect workers from discrimination
- placing the burden of proof on the employer to provide a worker is not an employee
Source of information on reports and quotations: Labour Research. May 2017.
The Labour Research Department started in 1912 as the Committee of Inquiry into the Control of Industry, became the Fabian Research Department in 1913 and then the LRD in 1918.