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Starmer defends New Deal ‘rebrand’ after union backlash

25 May 2024 4 minute read
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks to to a local resident while campaigning in Satfford. Photo Jacob King/PA Wire

Sir Keir Starmer has defended Labour’s decision to rebrand its package of workers’ rights pledges following a backlash from one of the UK’s biggest trade unions.

The party leader denied he was watering down policies on areas like zero-hours contracts, parental leave and sick pay after Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the plans had “more holes than Swiss cheese”.

It comes after the latest flare-up in a row over Labour’s New Deal for Working People, following reports it would go through a formal consultation process with businesses – potentially delaying or toning down the pledges.

On Friday, Labour rebranded the New Deal as “Labour’s plan to make work pay”.

During a visit to Staffordshire on Saturday, Sir Keir told the BBC: “We have come to an agreement with the trade unions on the new deal for working people.


“There’s been no watering down. This is the most significant set of protections for a generation.

“It’s also something which I think employers and good businesses would say, ‘looking at the detail of it, this is what we’re doing in good businesses’.”

Elements of the deal include a “right to switch off”, a proposed ban on zero hours contracts and stronger employment rights from day one of a new job.

The party has also said it wants to empower adult social care professionals and trade unions that represent them to negotiate a sector-wide agreement for pay, terms and conditions.


Reacting to the recent rebrand, Ms Graham said: “The again revised New Deal for Working People has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. The number of caveats and get-outs means it is in danger of becoming a bad bosses’ charter.

“Working people expect Labour to be their voice. They need to know that Labour will not back down to corporate profiteers determined to maintain the status quo of colossal profits at the expense of everyone else. The country desperately needs a Labour government, but the party must show it will stick to its guns on improving workers’ rights.

“Fire and rehire is abhorrent and must be banned – no ifs, no buts. Unite will continue to call out any row backs on the New Deal for Working People, which was a promise made.”

However, Unison, which along with Unite is one of the two largest unions in the UK, welcomed the package in its current form as one that will “make work fairer and boost the economy”.

“There will be a clear choice in July: a vote for a party that understands the huge struggles employees and their families have been facing, or one that’s persistently let working people down these past 14 years. Labour’s new deal best illustrates that choice,” general secretary Christina McAnea said.

“That’s why its measures are proving popular on the doorstep. Bad employers will no longer be able to outprice good ones by cutting corners and reducing costs by exploiting staff.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Labour’s New Deal for Working People is our plan to make work pay. It’s how we’ll boost wages, deliver secure work and support working people to thrive – delivering a genuine living wage, banning exploitative zero hours contracts, and ending fire and rehire.

“The New Deal is a core part of our mission to grow Britain’s economy and raise living standards in every part of the country. Labour will make Britain work for working people.”

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23 days ago

There should be no such thing as zero hour contracts , employment agencies and everyone should be able to earn a wage they can actually live on , simple as , not a lot to ask for .

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
23 days ago
Reply to  Mark

Many zero hour contracts are just exploitation, but not all. In certain circumstances some workers prefer a zero hour contract, however, much depends on the details of that contract. If the worker has the right to work for other employers, and also the right to turn down offered work, for example because the worker has already agreed to work shifts for a different employer, or they are addressing demands in their personal lives, then zero hour contracts can work to the benefit of individual workers seeking a working life that fits in with their lifestyle. Zero hour contracts aren’t for… Read more »

23 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

Among people for whom they can be suitable (provided there are safeguards to prevent exploitation and the right to turn down shifts) are students who want to combine work with their study commitments and those who are semi retired and just want to top up their pensions

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
22 days ago

Starmer is a ‘Knight of the Realm’ a member of the ‘Trilateral Commission. Had a mostly Private Education, is a Multi Millionaire, given a really easy ride by the Media, Expels any MP or Councillor who dare disagree with him. He would do Stalin Proud! How more ‘Establishment’ can you get?

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