Labour sees off row with unions after tensions over staff’ rights reforms

Keir Starmer has averted a row with union leaders over Labour’s flagship workers’ rights reforms.

Tensions had been rising over whether the radical package risked being scaled back amid pressure from business groups. In three-hours of crunch talks yesterday, the Labour leader and his top team hammered out a deal with the party’s union backers to resolve the row.

Presenting a united front, Labour and the unions said: “Together we have reiterated Labour’s full commitment to the New Deal for Working People as agreed in July. We will continue to work together at pace on how a Labour Government would implement it in legislation.”

The deal, first unveiled in 2021 by Deputy Leader Angela Rayner, includes stronger employment rights from day one, a “right to switch off”, and a ban on zero-hours contracts. But a new version leaked last week sparked concern among some union leaders that the reforms, which were agreed by Labour’s National Policy Forum last year, were being watered down.

At talks attended by Mr Starmer and his top team, including Ms Rayner and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, senior union leaders are understood to have presented a united front to demand assurance that the deal would not be carved up further. One source said: “The unions were very united at today’s talks and are happy with the outcome of the meeting.”

In a boost for Labour, the Unite union also endorsed the plan after abstaining on the vote last year. Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham, who has been the most publicly critical, said Labour had been open to their concerns. She told LBC: “We’ve got to keep their feet to the fire, we’re not a cult.”

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU, said: “The unions are absolutely in one place and that was very noticeable.” Mr Wrack, who is also President of the Trades Union Congress, added: “We have got a lot of challenges.

“We know that there will be lobbying of Labour politicians by big business and the billionaire class in my view, who will think that paying workers a decent wage is going to cost them too much. Our job as trade unions is to make sure that those things are delivered and help millions and millions of working people.”

Labour has promised to bring forward the legislation in the first 100 days if the party wins the general election.