Labour 'must help workers' to win

The leader of one of the country's biggest trade unions has urged Labour to raise its game if it is to win back disaffected supporters.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny says Labour should pledge to end zero-hours contracts
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny says Labour should pledge to end zero-hours contracts

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said the party needed to go "much further" in drawing up policies to help workers.

He said Labour leader Ed Miliband should "kiss the badge", as footballers do when they score goals as a way of showing loyalty to their team.

Mr Kenny, speaking at the GMB's annual conference in Nottingham, also highlighted the problems he believed had led to the current criticism of the European Commission.

Workers' rights under the social chapter had been cut, while exploitation had been allowed to grow, he said.

Mr Kenny criticised Labour's response to last month's European elections, saying the party should recognise that the original vision of the social chapter "just isn't happening".

He said Labour should be "crystal clear" about ending zero hours contracts and tackling the growing dependence of workers on benefits, making a start on returning utilities such as water, to public ownership, and reversing the privatisation of health contracts.

"There are 11 railway franchises coming up for renewal in the next 15 months. The people who use trains should be given a vote on whether their service should return to public ownership.

"I think it would an absolute winner."

Mr Kenny warned Labour that following an "austerity lite" programme would not win it the general election.

Earlier, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves, told the conference that a Labour government would set an "ambitious" target for the minimum wage, crack down on bogus self-employment in the building industry and build more houses as part of a policy of investment rather than austerity.

But she was booed by some delegates when she refused to commit to ending zero hours contracts, under which people don't know if they have work from one week to the next.

Labour would tackle abuses of the system, but Ms Reeves said she believed some people, such as students, supported the flexibility of zero hours contracts.

Mr Kenny said the hostile reaction to that comment "reflected what people feel".

The GMB has cut its funding to Labour by £1 million a year in response to the reforms of the party's links with unions.