My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Eatwell for this debate and his superb opening speech. The Covid crisis has revealed the wholesale failure of workplace law to protect workers. The plain and unambiguous requirements of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 have been flouted by many employers, not just in the NHS and this week in the House of Commons. The failure to enforce these laws is a disgrace and a tragedy. It is an affront to the rule of law.
Labour laws have also failed to ensure a decent income. We now realise how appallingly paid are our key workers, doctors excepted. The laws that should protect, do not. The gender pay gap remains at 17.3%. Some 25% of those entitled to the minimum wage are paid less than it. Statutory sick pay is a mere £95.85 a week. The wage share of GDP has fallen from 65.1% in 1976 to 49.2% in 2019. Some 9 million people live in poverty in a household in which at least one person is in paid work. Sir Michael Marmot reminded us that inequality of income means inequality of health and life expectancy. This week’s Public Health England report brings that fact starkly home in relation to coronavirus.
We need a whole new transformation of our labour laws, in which the voice of the workers must be heard. Above all, we need the reinstitution of sectoral collective bargaining, which was the way out of the crises after the First World War, the great depression and the Second World War.