That's why Labour is "looking at ways to stop top pay running away from everyone else's"by / January 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
“Tacking back control” became a defining political slogan in 2016. Yet, as Frances O’Grady said recently, few people feel they have taken back much control over their working lives.
One in 10 workers are in insecure employment, the number of agency workers is set to reach 1m by 2020, and zero-hours contracts are still rife. In some sectors, people have had to rely on the courts for their rights at work—the ground-breaking Uber tribunal found that drivers were wrongly denied basic entitlements like sick pay and the minimum wage.
When it comes to holding companies accountable, the government seems to have little interest in giving ordinary people a stake in the decisions that affect them.
Decisions are being made at the top in the interests of shareholders rather than workers and customers. Household names like BHS and Sports Direct have been caught out for poor corporate governance practices.
Yet in response to the scandals, far from helping working people to “take back control,” the Tories have backtracked on their promise to give employees and customers a voice in boardrooms. Meanwhile, we’ve already passed “Fat Cat Wednesday,” the day on which top bosses had already made more money than the typical worker will earn all year.
Last year, executive pay increased by 10 per cent, compared to less than two per cent for ordinary people. This can’t be right, but attempting to nudge companies into voluntary restraint hasn’t worked. That’s why we’re looking at ways to stop top pay running away from everyone else’s.
And the result of poor corporate governance practices isn’t just losses for workers, but customers and taxpayers too. Precarious work practices and lax governance rules hurt the Exchequer; from bogus self-employment hitting national insurance contributions, to the scandal of tax avoidance. You don’t have to look very far to see the impact of corporate failure on customers—Southern Rail is a prime example; the government’s “hands-off” approach to this failed franchise has resulted in strike action that has left passengers close to tears.
These issues are just the making of the government’s 2016 legacy. 2017 will bring in a whole new range of challenges. Balancing the opportunities offered by automation with the impact on industries, negotiating a Brexit deal that preserves single market access and workers’ rights.
Instead of sorting the situation out, the government threatens to use its failure over Southern Rail to bring in new laws to cripple unions. Don’t let the Tories fool you that there’s a choice to be had here; a good deal for workers, for customers or for the taxpayer. To the contrary, there is a strong correlation between the strength of trade unions, economic growth and reduced inequality.
The Prime Minister should instead focus on tackling the things that really matter for working people: a new deal on employment rights to ensure that workers don’t have to sacrifice security for flexibility; making good on the government promise to give people a voice in the boardroom; and fighting for the best Brexit deal possible for working Britain.
The Tories should focus on making 2017 the year we start to truly take back power in the workplace. Theresa May claims to be a champion of workers, but Tory Britain isn’t working for too many. It’s time for that to change.