‘Work will finally pay’

Shadow secretary for Wales Jo Stevens on what public sector workers could expect from a Labour victory at the general election

Public sector staff will see a New Deal for Working People within the first 100 days of a UK Labour government, according to shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens.

The Cardiff Central MP, who worked for nearly 30 years as a trade union solicitor before being elected in 2015, says that if Labour is elected, its plans will transform people’s lives and strengthen the role of trade unions in society.

“All regions across the UK have suffered from the damages of 14 years of a Conservative government, which has inflicted austerity, crashed the economy and presided over the biggest decline in living standards since the Second World War,” she says. “The Tories have broken Britain and working people are paying the price.

“Labour will fight every day for higher living standards and public services that people can rely on – services that are there when you need them. UNISON members know better than anyone, both working in and using public services, the strain they are under.

“The Tories have demonstrated time and time again that they don’t care about public services, because they don’t use them – they are schools for other people’s children, hospitals for other families and police for neighbourhoods they don’t live in.”

Prior to becoming an MP, Jo worked for Thompsons Solicitors representing union members, including UNISON members who had been injured, mistreated and killed at work.

She provided legal advice and representation to thousands of union members, taking on powerful employers and their insurance companies to secure justice for workers and their families across Wales. She also defended union members in the magistrates and crown courts who were at risk of losing their livelihoods and their liberty.

Public sector workers make Wales work

Keir Starmer appointed Jo as shadow Welsh secretary in 2021, her second stint in the role.

“Public sector workers make Wales work,” she says. “They cared for our family and friends during the pandemic, they educate our children, care for our elderly relatives and deliver vital local services. They’re not called key workers for nothing.

“But too often they have been undervalued, overlooked and even scapegoated by Conservative governments.

“The next UK Labour government will recognise the service of public sector workers by delivering a New Deal for Working People within its first 100 days.”

The party aims to introduce a genuine living wage for all adult workers, including a fair pay agreement in adult social care to raise terms and conditions across the sector.

“Boosting wages is not just the right thing for workers, it’s the right thing for our economy,” she says. “Better pay would end the self-defeating low wage, low investment, and low productivity cycle that the country has been trapped in for over a decade. It will also help to tackle the cost of living crisis by ensuring everyone is paid enough to live on.

“Labour will also strengthen workers’ rights and protections by banning zero-hours contracts, ending fire and rehire, and giving people rights at work from day one, including sick pay, flexible working and parental leave, as well as protection from unfair dismissal.”

She believes that restrictions on trade union activity are holding back both living standards and the economy. Labour will update trade union legislation, “so it’s fit for a modern economy and will empower working people everywhere to collectively secure fair pay, terms and conditions.

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People will transform working people’s lives. Work will finally pay; rights will be properly enforced and, crucially, it will strengthen the role of trade unions in our society. This is vital, because the New Deal wasn’t created in an ivory tower by politicians, it was developed in collaboration with the trade union movement, and it will be delivered with you.”

Labour governments at both ends of the M4 will deliver the decade of national renewal the UK desperately needs

Thinking specifically of public services, she says: “Working with the Welsh Labour government, we will deliver reform and investment of our public services to benefit everyone who works in them and everyone who relies on them.”

Among other things, this includes investing in the NHS workforce, training “record numbers” of doctors and nurses with a new medical school in North Wales, introducing more police officers and PCSOs into local communities to tackle anti-social behaviour and serious crime, especially knife crime and violence against women and girls.

There is much debate about how all parties plan to finance their ambitions. Jo says that, under Labour, “public services will benefit from an immediate injection of cash as we tackle tax dodgers and end tax breaks on private school fees.”

Crucially, a Labour government in Westminster would return power over its economic destiny to Wales, restoring the Welsh Government’s decision-making role on structural funds.

In the past, this money has been used to address key education and skills priorities, such as apprenticeships – and one major Labour aim, UK-wide, is to “break down the barriers to opportunity”, with all under 25s guaranteed work, education, training or self-employment.

As Jo puts it: “Labour governments at both ends of the M4 will deliver the decade of national renewal the UK desperately needs.”

Interview: Rupert Denholm-Hall
Image: courtesy of the office of Jo Stevens MP

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One thought on “‘Work will finally pay’

  1. Cllr. Edmund Peake says:

    I work in mental health and the sooner there is a national care service the better.
    But this must be transparent and accountable.
    Also, there needs to be evidence of the benefit of having a national service.

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