Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

Andy's statement to union members

"I am proud of the Labour movement and what we have achieved. From the NHS to the Open University, we have effected great social change. But there is still more to do. I want to lead a Labour Party which ensures that no opportunity is beyond reach, no matter who you are or where you are from.

Unemployment is the worst blight on equality. The long-term unemployed have the worst health outcomes and their children are the least likely to succeed in education. For the vast majority, it is not a lifestyle choice, it is a downward spiral from which there appears to be no escape.

That is why I am fighting to save the Future Jobs Fund, which offers real opportunity to young people, providing them with a job, work experience, or training lasting at least six months. Without the Fund, we run the risk of returning to an era when unemployment is inevitable from the time someone leaves education until they draw their state pension. That is not acceptable.

For those in work, I will develop the national minimum wage into a real living wage. This cannot be done overnight: it will take time, especially in difficult economic circumstances. But I am committed to delivering a living wage that benefits those on the lowest incomes and brings additional benefit to our economy.

I want to make life better for those, not just in my constituency but across the country, for whom opportunities are still too often out of reach. I want the Labour Party to again truly be the People’s Party - a force for good and for progress, based on the values we share with the overwhelming majority of the British people. If you share my vision, then join me and be part of it."

 

What do you see as the role of trade unions in the 21st Century?

"Trade unions, like the Labour Party, have a proud past and a bright future. They are at the heart of the Labour movement and, under my leadership, I want them to be at the heart of the Labour Party too.

The work that union members did during the General Election campaign was tireless, getting Labour candidates elected across the country. That unity, that sense of purpose, that fight for what is good and just inextricably links the Party and the union movement.

The progress made on union learning was one of the big achievements of the Labour Government and I’m really proud of the thousands of opportunities to get on at work that were provided through the union learning fund, by working with the TUC and with trade unions across the country. Under my leadership, I will work with the unions to promote and support projects like this to give people the opportunities that they otherwise may not have.

There were times in the recent past when the Party seemed to put the interests of big business before the interests of individuals. We should be pro-business, but we should never lose sight of ordinary people, those who feel that, despite doing everything right, the odds still feel stacked against them. I want to work with the unions reconnect Labour and put fairness back at the heart of Britain."

 

How would you practically implement a living wage? For example, would you support legislation to ensure that companies can only get government and local government contracts if they pay a living wage?

"Under my leadership, introducing a living wage in the public and private sectors will be a priority. But first we’ve got to practice what we preach. We should work towards a requirement in government contracts that only those companies paying at the agreed level, region by region, should be entitled to bid. As resources allow, we should ensure that those employed in government departments also receive a living wage

It is important that it is set at the right level. I would establish a joint consultation of unions, business and a range of stakeholder groups to ensure that it is set at the appropriate level for each region and that it is workable.

We must also remember the importance of policing and enforcing the minimum wage. In Opposition it is essential not only to press the Coalition government to ensure that the minimum wage keeps its value in real terms but also that government ensures that checks and enforcement continues to stamp out bad business practice.

Finally, I will set up a scheme, where good employers who were paying at the level of a living wage would receive accreditation and gain the recognition of being a good employer with positive employment practice. Such a scheme would provide an incentive to encourage employers to pay a living wage and help embed a living wage within employment practice going forward."

 

What should be the future of public sector pensions? Would a future Labour Government led by you stand by theagreement reached between the TUC and the Labour Government in April of this year and commit to provide 'good quality, index-linked, sustainable, defined benefit pensions' or public sector workers?

"Decent pensions for public sector workers are an important recognition of the vital work that public servants do. It is insulting for the Government to infer that all public sector pensions are ‘gold plated’. What they don’t say is that the vast majority of those working in the public sector provide vital services, for far lower wages than the few headline cases of those who earn more than the Prime Minister. What they also won’t tell you is that whilst telling us that schemes for the people who deliver our health services, teach our children and collect our rubbish are ‘unaffordable’, that they’ve significantly increased the pensions bill to provide for those who work in Downing Street.

Pensions are going to come under increasing pressure, and will start to cost a lot more over the next five years. However, my response wouldn’t be to deny access to high quality pension schemes, but to work with public sector unions to see how we can tackle the problem together. With a report this month from Age UK showing that the wealthiest in society benefit disproportionately from the tax relief given to private pension schemes, those schemes must also be considered within my review. It wouldn’t be honest to say that I don’t think anything needs to change. However, change should start at the top, with the highest earners in the public sector having to step up their contributions. Once changes to ensure that the highest earners are paying more have been implemented, then it may be necessary to see what else needs to change, in consultation with the unions. There may be a need to increase employee contributions across the board, payment periods may need to increase and there might have to be a review at the rate at which pensions are paid out – but I will campaign for decent, index linked, final salary schemes to remain in the public sector."

 

If elected as the Labour leader, would you support a three-line whip for the PLP against the Coalition government's Bill to privatise, and break up, Royal Mail?

Andy has not answered this question.

 

Labour stands for equality and fairness at work and in the wider community. How do we tackle the gender pay gap, discrimination and low pay in the current economic climate?

"First off, we don’t let the boulder roll back down the hill on the advances we have made. Whether it’s on low pay, discrimination or the gender pay gap, we will not stand by and see hard won gains under Labour wither on the vine under the Tory/ Liberal coalition.

That is our main task as an Opposition over coming months. We will not allow the Conservatives to get away with dismantling progressive measures for their ideological ends under the cloak of “we can’t afford it”. We will put pressure on those shame-faced Lib Dems MPs to ensure they support us as we protect what we have built during our 13 years in office. The coalition says that it is committed greater gender equality. An easy thing to claim. We will hold them to it.

In terms of low pay, we must fight to ensure the value of the Minimum Wage does not diminish. The Tories hate the fact that the National Minimum Wage has been such a success. They will roll-out the old Tory arguments about the country not being able to afford regular increases, but it’s good for the economy, especially during such a fragile recovery, to have the low paid with more money in their pockets."

 

The unfair treatment of agency workers causes many problems, not just for the agency workers themselves, but also for their directly employed colleagues. How should the Agency Workers Directive be implemented and enforced in order to put a stop to the exploitation of agency workers and the undercutting of permanent staff, and what other measures should be put in place? Why do you think progress was not made to sign up to and implement the Agency Workers Directive sooner under Labour, given supporting it was part of the Warwick Agreement of 2004?

"My dad was a telecomms engineer and, during the later part of his working life, he was an agency worker. That experience showed me first hand how precarious that sort of contract work can be. I have also seen the sometimes knife-edge existence that some of the families in my constituency face because of short-term contracts and the inability to access the sort of banking services the rest of us take for granted. That is why I have spoken up for agency workers during this leadership campaign.

Quite simply, the coalition's hesitation over the Directive in response to the 'the different points of view expressed by the business community' is an insult to temporary and agency workers, as well as anyone who wants Britain to be an economic and employment exemplar in the future.

I saw the Directive as a vital part of efforts to upgrade our laws for the current and future workforce, and I have already called for all job vacancies to be openly advertised, for instance. I regret that the Directive did not come into force without exemptions during Labour's last term, and we should learn from that and reform our policy-making processes accordingly. That is why I want to strengthen the trade union link, so that those mistakes are never made again and that we can truly be a Labour movement."

 

Britain has the most restrictive industrial laws in the western world, which stop unions from best representing their members. What one restriction do you think most urgently needs lifting and why?

"I have been concerned by the role of the courts in recent industrial actions, where decisions have been made on relatively minor issues which have effectively quashed legally constituted strikes. We should look again at the legislation to reassure workers who have been properly balloted and who have voted in favour of industrial action that their decision cannot be quashed on minor technicalities, brought about by unforeseen consequences of the legislation." 

 

The Labour Party has always prided itself on being the Party of equality and diversity. How will you ensure that Labour’s shadow cabinet and the PLP are representative of women and men? What one thing would you do to make sure that Labour is better connected with and representative of ordinary trade union members?

"When we think of the milestones we reached in government the Labour family has a great equality and diversity record to be proud of: the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, the Equalities Act, the first black cabinet minister, the first Muslim minister, the first black woman minister to speak at the Commons dispatch box, Civil Partnerships, gay adoption and the repeal of Section 28.

Now in Opposition we must maintain the momentum we had in government. The party I lead will offer additional training and mentoring for our newly-elected representatives, which is particularly important for young, women and BAME members for whom the support has too often simply not been available. I will also ensure that the proportion of women across Shadow and Government reflects, as a minimum, the proportion of women in the Parliamentary Labour Party. My online manifesto calls for Labour to continue the great progress made with all-women shortlists to ensure there are more women in Parliament and on the Labour benches.

Providing support and listening to our members and those within the Labour family are key to Labour’s future success, to end the disconnection between the Party, its members and supporters. That means closer ties to the trade union movement, not just at the top of the Party, but from constituencies up. Working together, we can be a force for good within our communities and ensure that we never again lose sight of what it means to be Labour."

 

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