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IWGB response to new government watchdog for workers' rights

08 June 2021 01:13

In response to today’s breaking news that the government plans to introduce a new workers’ rights watchdog, Henry Chango-Lopez, General Secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) which represents precarious, migrant and gig economy workers, says:

“In the courts and in the streets we have been calling for an independent enforcement body to protect worker rights for many years and after the systematic exploitation, abuse and neglect endured by many frontline and precarious workers through the Covid-19 pandemic the need for this has never been clearer.

State agencies previously responsible for protecting our rights at work have an extremely poor record. The Health and Safety Executive for example only investigated 0.1 percent of the reports it received of avoidable Covid-19 transmissions arriving from poor workplace health and safety. We gave evidence to BEIS to this effect last year and said then that the systemic failures in enforcement go well beyond Covid-19.

Uber went all the way to the Supreme Court in a bid to deny its drivers worker status and basic rights and Addison Lee has now lost its worker status case yet neither ruling has actually been enforced so we would expect this watchdog to take immediate action against Uber, Addison Lee and the slew of other gig economy operators currently failing to meet their legal obligations on workers’ rights. This trend is also increasing well beyond the gig economy, as the rise in outsourcing enables businesses to pass the buck and dodge their responsibilities to their workers.

There is also the question of protections for whistleblowers, particularly migrant and precarious workers on zero hours contracts. Unless measures are included to protect such workers from deportation and destitution they will not be safe to report illegal activity by employers and the watchdog’s ability to stamp out human trafficking will be seriously impaired.

This could be a step in the right direction but only if trade unions are heard and the government establishes a truly independent watchdog with the power to enforce the law and protect all workers equally. No doubt it will be up to workers themselves and the trade unions that represent them to fight for that and make it known that Britain deserves better than business as usual.”

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