Labour Approves UK Election Pledges - But One Union Objects

(Bloomberg) -- The Labour Party signed off on its election manifesto at a crunch meeting of party and union officials on Friday — but failed to win the backing of Unite, one of the biggest trade unions affiliated to the UK party, people familiar with the matter said.

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With less than four weeks to go until Britain’s general election on July 4, Friday’s meeting of senior officials endorsed the party’s manifesto, the party said late Friday afternoon in a statement. “The British people will have the chance to vote for change - to stop the chaos, turn the page and start to rebuild our country,” it said.

But support for the manifesto was not unanimous. Unite declined to endorse it, citing disagreements with Labour’s promise to end oil and gas licenses as well as commitments on workers’ rights, according to the people, who requested anonymity disclosing details of a behind-closed-doors meeting. Unite specifically wanted to strengthen a pledge to end the practice of “fire and rehire” by removing caveats for businesses restructuring during financial difficulties, they said.

A spokesperson for Unite declined to comment.

The document is important because it represents the program for government of a Labour party that appears poised to return to power next month after 14 years in opposition to Conservative-led governments. Keir Starmer’s party leads by more than 20 points in the polls, and seat-by-seat analysis by two polling companies this week has Labour on track to score a historic majority, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s governing Tories appearing on course for their worst defeat in more than a century.

While Labour didn’t disclose details of its manifesto promises on Friday night — the document is set to be published next Thursday — previous reporting by Bloomberg has revealed that one of the central offerings will be a big commitment on childcare, with the party promising a specific, large number of childcare places. The party doesn’t, however, plan to scrap a controversial two-child cap on those receiving child benefits that was introduced by the Tories.

Other election promises already made by Labour that will feature include a promise not to raise income tax, national insurance or value added sales tax (VAT) — the Treasury’s three main revenue raisers — and a commitment to introduce VAT for private schools to generate funds for the wider education budget. It has also vowed to scrap loopholes in Tory plans to scrap the tax regime surrounding non-domiciled residents.

Other manifesto commitments include:

  • A football governance law, including the establishment of a football regulator

  • A policy to recognize Palestinian statehood

  • Voter registration reforms aimed at boosting turnout

  • A pledge to cut net migration to the UK

Before the meeting, there had been concern among party insiders that Labour’s plans on worker’s rights had the greatest potential to cause conflict among those gathered at the meeting, especially the unions. That’s because the package, which includes an end to ‘fire and rehire’ and banning so-called zero-hours contracts, had been watered down significantly since Deputy Party leader Angela Rayner first unveiled them in 2021, with more caveats and a promised consultation with business.

At a crunch meeting last month, Starmer and Rayner discussed the proposals with union bosses to win buy-in and presented a united front afterward, but crucially without agreeing the final form of the package. In the event, only Unite held out in opposition to some of the language.

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