Labour’s shadow chancellor has promised the party would create long-term plans to guide the “overlooked industries” of the UK’s “everyday economy”, such as carers, shop workers and restaurant staff.
Rachel Reeves told the party conference that an industrial strategy would also be created to help “British business lead the world in growing high-tech industries”.
On Monday, Labour members at the Brighton conference also called for the party to campaign to end fire and rehire practices, described as part of a “co-ordinated attack” on workers’ rights as the pandemic came to an end.
Ms Reeves told the party conference: “Last year the Government tore up its own Industrial Strategy just when it was needed most, to shape the future of British industry after Brexit.
“Labour will lead a new era of industrial strategy working hand-in-hand with trade unions and with businesses.
“This is about helping British business lead the world in growing high-tech industries like life sciences, electric cars and renewable energy but we will do something that’s never been done before.”
She also promised industrial strategies – long-term plans usually aimed at boosting jobs and conditions in certain sectors – for care and retail workers.
Ms Reeves said: “We will have industrial strategies for the overlooked industries that make up our everyday economy sectors which have never before been the focus of industrial strategy like retail, hospitality and care.
“The steps that I am outlining today represent an approach that is unapologetically pro-worker and unapologetically pro-business.”
Mick Whelan, of train driver’s union ASLEF, told the conference a new industrial strategy was “desperately needed” to guide the UKs economy after Covid.
He said: “I hear many people talking about how the Covid pandemic has entirely change our world, that the post-pandemic world will be different, how we work, how we communicate, how the economy functions.
“I don’t entirely agree. This pandemic hasn’t created new truths, it has rather brought previous truths into sharp focus.
“The need for an industrial strategy that puts economic growth, good unionised jobs and fighting climate change at its heart has been desperately needed for decades, but now it is needed more than ever.”
The Labour conference also heard calls for the party to campaign for an end to fire and rehire practices, which has been used by some companies to change employment conditions at short notice in the wake of the pandemic.
Ted Wall, of Macclesfield Labour Party, said: “This pandemic has taken a brutal toll on workers across the country. Unlike their bosses, the Prime Minister, and the cabinet, they have turned up to work every day.
“They have borne the brunt of the worst public health crisis in a generation. They have bene rewarded with a worsening of pay and conditions and brutalised by fire and rehire.”
He added: “Make no mistake – this is a co-ordinated attack, it is the culmination of the Tories’ long-term political project of economic royalism and class warfare.
“Our response must be the largest expansion of trade union rights for decades.
“We must not only repeal Cameronism and Johnsonism but Thatcherism as well, and we need to go further, ensuring a Green New Deal is well-placed to take on the excesses of the gig economy.”