During a meeting of the Welsh Assembly on the 9th of July, Wales’ First Minister, Mr. Marc Drakeford (pictured) outlined plans for new legislation designed to more effectively unite workers who are working under zero-hours contracts with their employers, the trade unions, those in government and all other parties. Thus enabling everyone to work un-encumbered and in partnership with a view to help improve working conditions for those involved both socially and economically.
During his speech to The Welsh Assembly, Mr. Drakeford said, “by coming together to discuss and collaborate, we solve problems and find solutions to the economic and social challenges currently facing Wales … meaningful tripartite involvement is fundamental to developing progressive outcomes and preventing conflict and dispute.”
He promised the new legislation, “will enshrine the current non-statutory social partnership model and ensure the agreements reached are clearly enforceable”.
Mr. Drakeford reminded the Assembly that Wales is in an ongoing battle to hold back the tide of austerity and anti-trade union legislation imposed by Westminster.
The Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017 went some way to reverse the effects of the Trade Union Act 2016, legislation Mr. Drakeford said was, “designed to strip away the rights of public service workers”.
Mr. Drakeford also said that “new approaches and new actions to drive up the quality of work and access to employment rights”, and, “deliver practical improvements in the workplace”. This will include policies, “designed to reverse the decline in collective bargaining".
Mr. Drakeford went on to say.“The International Labour Organization (ILO), amongst others, has clearly articulated the role that collective bargaining plays in reducing inequality and extending labour protection,”... “We fully endorse the principles set out by the ILO on collective bargaining and freedom of association and we wish to see these benefits extended to more working people here in Wales.”
He added, “To do so is ever-more urgent in a changing world, where modern working practices are undermining workers' rights.”..."The advent of automation and digital platforms have proven how easily the burden of risk can be shifted onto workers without the protection afforded by conventional employment relationships,” he said, warning that, “in-work poverty, false self-employment, and compulsory zero-hour contracts have a corrosive effect on the health and well-being of people in Wales...these unfair practices serve only to deepen the existing inequalities in our society as those with the least power in the workplace are affected most.”
Also, it’s not only workers who are harmed by the deterioration of workplace rights. As Mr. Drakeford pointed out, “socially responsible and committed businesses” are, “at risk of unfair competition” by unscrupulous employers and “tax-avoiding multinational organisations operating beyond our borders”.
The actions of the Welsh government to improve and protect tripartite working will, he said “bring better outcomes for employers because with a committed workforce, encouraged by employers that invest in skills and good management at all levels, we can build a stronger and more resilient economy with improved productivity which is fit for the challenges of the future.”
As well as new legislation, Mr. Drakeford proclaimed that Wales will use “the power of the public purse,” to encourage the spread of fair work out with Wales to the rest of the UK.
In order to be considered for public contracts, employers will have to meet minimum standards when it comes to the way they treat their workers.
He also promised to establish effective means of monitoring and enforcement of workers' rights and collective agreements, enact the thus-far dormant section of the Equality Act of 2010 that creates a duty on the public sector to promote socio-economic equality, and establish a “new machinery of government to underpin the work of social partners” – the Office for Fair Work.
Mr. Drakeford concluded by saying...”Together, the problems which face us all are best addressed”.
Solidarity welcomed the statement from the Welsh First Minister. Patrick Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity union said: "This is great news for workers in Wales and we hope to see others taking up these positive measures soon in other parts of the UK."
Report from Jacqui MacDee