Lord Mandelson urges Labour to slow down over trade union laws

Lord Mandelson says there is a case top answer for reform but it must be tested first
Lord Mandelson says there is a case top answer for reform but it must be tested first - Jamie Lorriman

Lord Mandelson has warned Labour that reforms to trade union legislation must not go beyond rights set out under New Labour.

The former Labour spin doctor said that while there was a “clear case” for reform, it should not be rushed or go beyond “the settlement bequeathed by new Labour”.

It comes after Rachel Reeves said in the annual Mais Lecture that Labour will “work with business as we deliver and implement” plans on trade union legislation reform.

The party has promised to repeal the Trade Union Act 2016, which put restrictions on how members of unions could conduct industrial action, which Labour described as “unnecessary”.

It has also pledged to strengthen trade unions’ right to enter workplaces to organise, meet and represent their members.

But Lord Mandelson said that workplace reforms “must not be rushed”.

He wrote in The Sunday Times: “Business and investors will have eyes on the total UK business environment, including regulation. This includes labour market and trade union law.

Rachel Reeves set our a little more detail to Labour's economic policy in her Mais Lecture
Rachel Reeves set our a little more detail to Labour's economic policy in her Mais Lecture - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“There is a clear case for reform but the case needs to be tested, priorities established and the complexities thoroughly addressed.

“This must not be rushed but it must be done in consultation with business.”

He added that the shadow chancellor had said that “in moving the legal pendulum back on trade union laws to the centre, it will not go further than the settlement bequeathed by New Labour.

“Employers need to be satisfied before the election that this will be honoured in both the spirit and the detail of the proposed law”.

Ms Reeves said in her Mais Lecture to the City of London: “On trade union legislation, we will reverse changes since 2010 that have done nothing to prevent the worst period of disruption since the 1980s, but instead have contributed to a conflictual, scorched-earth approach that has stood in the way of productive negotiation.

“These policies didn’t exist under Blair and Brown when there were fewer strikes and less disruption. We will work with business as we deliver and implement these policies.”

Rights from ‘day one’

Labour has also previously said that it would ban zero-hour contracts and outlaw fire and rehire, as well as ensuring workers were entitled to their rights from “day one” in the job.

Justin Madders, shadow employment rights’ minister, in apparent reference to Lord Mandelson’s comments, that the case for reform “is as strong as it has ever been”.

Mr Madders wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday: “We have had well over a decade of wages lagging behind the cost of living, growing insecurity at work and a rise in exploitative jobs.

“The case for reform so that we have well paid, secure, trade union recognised jobs is as strong as it has ever been”.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chairman, insisted that the party was both “pro-business and pro-worker” and that “both need to go together”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, Ms Dodds said: “That’s what we set out in that new deal for working people. We are going to continue to discuss that with business, with unions and with working people as you would expect.

“And we need to make sure living standards and economic growth are on a far stronger footing than they have been over the last 14 years.”