A Labour Party committed to improving the pay and working conditions of those employed in hotel and catering, the health and care sector and retail and warehousing is one that is really on the side of the many, not the few in work in 2022.
Owen Smith, during his Labour leadership campaign in 2016, proposed a wages council style organisation for workers in just those sectors of the economy. Many of those who work therein are poorly paid, employed part time, some on temporary contracts and many of them are women.
2,579,000 or 7.4% of the workforce in the UK work in manufacturing. That figure does understate the number who are paid, indirectly, to work in the sector.
However, 4,890,000 or 14.1% of the workforce in the UK work in wholesale and retail.
4,369,000 or 12.6% of the workforce in the UK work in health and social care.
And, 2,384,000 or 6.9% of the workforce in the UK work in hotel and catering.
After the leadership election was over, the middle and upper class Boys of Team Corbyn did not pick up the idea, despite Corbyn styling himself as in touch with the working class.
That policy has relevance across the length and breadth of the UK, especially in those so called left behind areas.
And amongst the dross of Richard Burgon’s deputy leadership campaign was to be found a call for a join a union campaign.
Why join a trades union?
Wages councils for the workers in these three major sectors of the economy, provide a good reason for individuals covered by those councils to join a trades union.
To ensure that they get the practical assistance they would need to help guarantee them the rights conferred on them by legislation.
In 2021, Keir Starmer seems too scared to take the Corbynistas head on and say that Labour’s 2017 and 2019 General Election Manifestos were too focused on addressing the whines and whinges of folk, like Labour’s very middle class membership.
Also, in 2021, Starmer has said his primary focus will be jobs and “how we support good businesses and good jobs … I don’t just mean pay, I mean dignity in jobs – and how we support the economy across the different regions and nations”, but with no reference to the Brexit that is causing companies to shed workers and lose contracts; businesses to fold; homes to be repossessed; lives to be put in jeopardy …
We must not imply, let alone suggest that Leave voters have brought socio-economic grief upon themselves and their fellow citizens by clamouring for Brexit.
As an aside, I am from a white working class background so the affection for meaningful manual labour, with dignity, to be found amongst a middle class, Corbynistas included, who have never experienced it and have no plans to do so, rather baffles me.
As Diane Abbott and Alan Johnson have both said, they got the jobs their parents wanted for them, in an office, in the warm, with a good salary and pension, and before they became MPs, reasonable hours.
If it is a choice between working in a call centre or working out on a building site in the freezing cold in February, for which would you plump, Claire Ainsley, with your degree in Politics and your MSc in Global Politics?
If it is the job in the warm, why do you think most folk from my background would be more likely to opt for the job in the cold, outdoors?
Those elderly Red Wall voters may get misty eyed over working down the pit or on’t shop floor, but odds on, given half the chance, most of them would have willingly got away from such employment.
I was the first member of my family to leave school, after three years of Sixth Form, and step straight into an office job as an Executive Officer in the Home Civil Service. For a while, when I was starting out in the Civil Service, I lived with my paternal grandparents.
My grandad, a carpenter and joiner, by trade, working class aristocracy, in fact, liked to speak of me proudly to friends and acquaintances as his grandson, the civil servant.
My immediate family are Bevanites and Bevinites, committed to real levelling up and that if it is good enough for them then it is good enough for us.
The ‘levelling up’ being spoken of by Boris Johnson and Starmer may be ill defined, but it reeks of nostalgia and like a preserved railway, it is the past in a very idealised form.
I cannot wait to learn that Johnson has put Wilfie down for a factory job rather than Eton and that Starmer is hopeful that his son and daughter will have the chance to become brickies.
Keir, old chap, I think members of the class into which I was born would prefer you put bettering their pay and conditions well before dignity in employment, whatever that means to you and Claire.
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