Labour leader Keir Starmer

The Labour Party chose May Day to leak to the pro-bosses’ Financial Times (FT) that it is watering down its pledges on workers’ rights.

To satisfy the union leaders, Labour has said it will bring in reforms over the latest set of anti-union laws limiting “fire and rehire”. 

Keir Starmer had told business chiefs in February that the plan would “not please everyone in the room”. 

But, according to the FT on Wednesday, “Behind the scenes, shadow ministers have been discussing how to tone down some of the pledges to ease employer misgivings as the party tries to boost its pro-business credentials.”

As the paper notes, “The move is likely to anger some trade union leaders but please business groups, which have become more vocal in raising concerns.” One business leader said that after several meetings with the party, they were now “pretty relaxed” about its plans. 

Be warned, this is a foretaste of the Labour government—pandering to the rich, offering only the flimsiest changes for workers. The unions should denounce any such attempts to rein back promises, and also demand a lot more.

Unions should plan now for a fighting campaign from day one of a Labour government. They should fight for the abolition of all the anti-union laws and the repeal of Tory anti-protest laws. Working class people need a 10 percent rise across the public sector, a big increase in benefits and an emergency programme of council house building and more. 

That needs to be linked to demands over environmental action and cutting military spending rather than boosting it. And the movement should demand welcoming back those who have been deported, compensating them and granting full citizenship rights, overturning racist laws and breaking from support for Israel.

According to the FT,  “Many of the policies will be ‘subject to formal consultation with business’, allowing for dilution of the promises when turned into practice and the potential for significant delay”. 

So it says Labour “will still vow to give workers basic job protections from day one of employment”. But “companies under the revised plans would be able to use probationary periods and staff could still be dismissed for ‘fair reasons’”. That would make the promise virtually worthless.

Workers and their unions should not “give Labour a chance”. They should organise for a fightback now. And they should launch the campaign even as the street sweepers are clearing the champagne bottles outside Downing Street and Starmer is waving from the steps.

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