by Sarah Church
Labour parliamentary candidate for South Swindon
The uncertainty of the outcome of Brexit negotiations impacts us all, across all sectors of work and all bands of pay. In a town like Swindon, there are two possible futures: a bright future of high employment, high wages and high productivity supported by employment rights and representation through trade unions; and a future under a Conservative government that reduces trade union representation, repeals the employment rights enshrined in EU law, and enters trade deals that allows unregulated third country access to our labour market.
Swindon’s geographical location, its proximity to major road networks and Heathrow airport, as well as the prospect of an electrified rail-link to London and Bristol make it a perfect town for business investment, business start-ups and manufacturing. Swindon already attracts a high rate of foreign investment. This is because of where we are but also because wages are so low: employees in Swindon are paid on average 18.3% less than in other nearby towns. In comparison with Bristol for example, an employer can expect to save approximately £4209 per employee per annum by employing a worker in Swindon. The combination of high productivity with low wages is an indicator of workforce exploitation. The solution to Swindon’s brighter future is for wages to rise to make us a high-wage high-productivity town.
What to do then? Firstly, introduce a minimum wage of £10 per hour that will actually meet the rising cost of living: rising rents, and rising food and fuel prices. Secondly, enshrine employment rights in British law, repeal the Trade Union Act and allow unions access to the workplace to support their members. Thirdly, ban zero-hours contracts and give all workers the same rights from day one of employment, whether on temporary or permanent contracts. Hard won rights for employees must not be eroded as we leave the EU, but should continue to protect the workforce from exploitation and wage suppression.
Cooperative business models will also increase employee rights and decision-making in local business. Employee representation on boards and the right to first refusal to buy a company that is being dissolved or sold will increase and improve rights in the workplace.
We are at the crossroads of these two possible futures and Labour is promising it will be bright for the workforce in Swindon.
Published and promoted by Wiltshire and Swindon GMB on behalf of Sarah Church, both of Suite 22 Cherry Orchard North, Swindon, SN2 8UH.