Labour can back both workers and businesses, says Rachel Reeves

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor
Ms Reeves will vow to lead a 'pro-growth' Treasury - TEMILADE ADELAJA/REUTERS

Rachel Reeves will insist on Tuesday that Labour can be both pro-worker and pro-business, despite the party watering down plans to boost union powers.

The shadow chancellor will vow to “bring growth back to Britain” in her first major speech of the general election campaign.

She will address business leaders just two days after Labour prompted union fury by weakening its ambitions for new workers’ rights.

In the speech, Ms Reeves will pledge to “lead the most pro-growth Treasury” in British history and “offer a government that is pro-worker and pro-business, in the knowledge that each depends upon the success of the other”.

“Our plans for growth are built on partnership with business,” she is set to say.

“A mission-led government, prepared to take on the big challenges we face and ready to seize the opportunities of the future.”

Tensions with unions

The remarks come amid growing tensions between Sir Keir Starmer and Left-wing union bosses over what Labour’s economic policies will look like if it wins the general election on July 4.

On Sunday, the Labour leader was attacked by Sharon Graham, the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting general secretary of the Unite union, for rebranding “Labour’s new deal for working people” as “Labour’s plan to make work pay” .

Ms Graham said the package of reforms to workers’ rights had “more holes in it than Swiss cheese” and was “in danger of becoming a bad bosses’ charter”.

Sir Keir has insisted that “there’s been no watering down” of one of Labour’s flagship economic policies.

The plan currently involves ending fire-and-rehire practices, repealing Conservative trade union legislation and introducing a “right to switch off” outside of work.

Radical reforms

Union leaders have repeatedly urged Labour to make more radical reforms in the workplace, but business leaders have said far-reaching changes would harm Britain’s competitiveness and inhibit growth.

The original package, unveiled by Angela Rayner in 2021, was previously weakened in July 2023 to allow for more consultation with businesses.

Laura Trott, the Conservative MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, said Labour’s plans “risk damaging the economy, costing jobs”.

“The bosses of Asda, Marks and Spencer, Currys and the Confederation of British Industry have all warned that Labour’s French-style union laws risk damaging the economy, costing jobs,” she said.

“Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a clear plan that businesses can rely on. We took the bold action to deliver the biggest business tax cut in modern history.

“Labour would tie businesses in red tape and raise taxes by £2,094 on hard-working families.”