Jon Trickett Mp Shadow Secretary of State For Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
Labour is asking you what the world of work should look like in 2020 because the Tories are letting down working people. Too many of us face low pay and job insecurity.
We want to hear about your experiences at work and gather your ideas about creating workplaces fit for the future.
Since the Labour Party was founded by trade unions over a century ago, the world of work has radically changed. The UK is one of the most unequal modern economies: low pay is widespread with six million workers earning less than the UK living wage.
We want to ensure that no one is left behind and that rewards are shared more evenly. That’s why we’re launching our biggest ever discussion on the workplace – so we know what the world of work should look like in 2020.
So whether you’re an employer, an employee, or both: we need to hear from you.
We want to hear how you would improve your working conditions, and what you want your workplace to look like in 2020.
What’s good about your workplace? For example, are you on a high quality apprenticeship scheme? Does your employer give you family friendly hours or provide childcare? Do they offer a good pension scheme? Tell us what works for you and what you would think other employers should provide.
What would you like to see change about your workplace? Do you want to work more hours? Can you make ends meet with the pay you receive? Is health and safety taken seriously? Do you feel like you’ve got a good work-life balance? Tell us what you think would improve your working life.
Work ought to be a fulfilling activity, where we are properly rewarded for our efforts, realise our full potential and where each of us is treated with dignity and respect in the context of a clean and healthy working space. It ought also to be an activity where we can see our career progress through our working lives.
If the truth is told, Britain is lagging behind many of our international competitors and we will need a single minded drive to improve the productivity of our industries. We can attempt to achieve this by a race to the bottom with low pay and poor working conditions. But that approach is not compatible with the British idea of social justice and fairness.
Labour believes that the best way to drive up our levels of efficiency and competitiveness is to gain the active commitment of the whole of our workforce based on high standards, proper remuneration and an end to the exploitative working practices which have become increasingly widespread under Tory rule.
It is many years since we had a proper national conversation about the world of work. With the passage of time, much has happened to change how we do things.
More women than ever are entering the workforce though too many still are held back by what is called the glass ceiling. Men too have different expectations about the role of work in their lives.
There are very different skills required nowadays, too, as the economy increasingly depends on new technology. More employers have expectations that their workforce will have a higher level of educational qualifications than ever before.
Workplaces like coal mines are a thing of the past, as are large textile mills, and the steel mills. In their place are new workplaces such as telephone call centres or the huge modern warehouse and distribution centres which spring up near almost every motorway junction.
Other developing trends are towards self-employment and also home working which are growing rapidly. Being your ‘own boss’ or working from home can be very appealing to many British people in 2016. But we also frequently hear about ‘false self-employment’ which is a way for some employers to avoid responsibilities to full time permanent employees located in secure workplaces with a proper health and safety regime, secure pensions and proper holidays.
Labour is launching Workplace 2020 in order to begin a conversation about all this.
We have no doubt that millions of Britons feel that they have positive experiences at work and feel well rewarded and fulfilled.
But, equally, there are less positive aspects. The pace of technological change can transform workplaces at bewildering speed. And globalisation can lead to decisions taken by board rooms thousands of miles away which can dislocate thousands of lives and even whole communities at a stroke.
Recent scandals at Sports Direct and BHS have revealed an increasingly ugly underside to the new world of work. Workplace 2020 is also about stamping out exploitative practices such as zero hours contracts and empowering people to make their workplaces work for them.
We have made great progress towards equality over the last century. But across the board, women continue to be paid less than men, whether because they are more likely to work in the caring professions that our society continues to undervalue, or because of discriminatory practices that see women passed over for promotion and paid less for the same work. Too many women are penalized for wanting to have children, by the double bind of extortionate childcare costs and colleagues who look harshly on career breaks.
Women aren’t the only group who face barriers in the work place. In 21st Century Britain there is no excuse for people to be disadvantaged at work because of their faith, skin colour, sexual preference, or because they have a disability.
The Government is strangling trade unions. But trade unions are essential to protecting our interests at work and addressing workplace inequality. We should start seeing them as part of the solution.
Doing so won’t just be good for workers. More secure workers are more productive workers. There are very many decent employers, who treat their workers well and are fed up with being undercut by their unscrupulous counterparts. I know, because I count many local employers among them. By extinguishing poor employment practices, we will make sure that these good employers are not unfairly driven out of business.
Ultimately, it is only by listening to people, and understanding their experiences, that we will be able to create a workplace that caters to everybody.
We all have different needs. From the self-employed web-designer, who enjoys the freedom of working for themselves, to the barista who longs for a stable pay packet at the end of the week. From the woman who wants a more flexible workplace so that she can maintain her career while having children, to the those who prefer the right to take time out to raise their children without struggling to make ends meet. From the 18-year-old who wants to go on to university on leaving school, to the young person seeking an apprenticeship – or, different again, someone seeking to change career paths and retrain later in life. It is only by listening to all of these people – and more – that we can start to create the kind of workplaces we want and deserve in 21st Century Britain.