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TUC chief: Tax wealth to fix broken Britain

Labour has ruled them out, but today at the Trades Union Congress conference, Paul Nowak calls for new taxes on wealth and capital gains.

By Paul Nowak

School buildings are collapsing before our eyes. I can’t think of a more apt metaphor for 13 years of Tory misrule. The Conservatives have literally broken Britain. Whether it’s presiding over crumbling classrooms, record hospital waiting lists, sewage-filled rivers or the longest wage squeeze in modern history – their litany of failures goes on.

The school-buildings fiasco – which has caused so much chaos for pupils, parents and teachers – is not just some unfortunate accident. It is the result of political choices. Far from “fixing the roof”, George Osborne cancelled Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme as part of his scorched-earth austerity, and Rishi Sunak recklessly ignored warnings from senior civil servants and reduced funding for school renovations.

This scandal is on them and them alone. Britain deserves so much better.

We need a government that values our public services – not a cabinet of millionaires that barely uses them. We all know someone who has had to wait months for vital treatment with the NHS. We’ve all heard stories about malnourished children and schools having to run food banks. And many of us have been stuck on late, overcrowded trains – while the Prime Minister flies around in his helicopter.

Nothing in this country works anymore. It’s time to press the reset button.

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That means political change. The key to fixing Britain is growing our economy. But we need an economy that rewards work – not just wealth.

Under the Conservatives, Britain has become a land of grotesque extremes. While millions have struggled to put food on the table and heat their homes, sales of Porsches have hit record levels. Meanwhile, City bonuses are booming and CEO pay is skyrocketing. That’s why I have called for a national conversation about how we tax wealth and windfalls more fairly.

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[See also: Paul Nowak: “I fit every stereotype of a Daily Mail trade unionist”]

It is frankly obscene that many nurses and teachers pay a bigger share of their income in tax than a hedge-fund trader who profits from stocks and shares. That is simply not right. Our broken tax system – as well as being patently unfair – is starving our public services of much-needed funding. Research from the Trades Union Congress has shown that even a modest tax on the wealthiest 0.3 per cent of individuals could raise £10bn. 

If we want to reset our economy, we also have to move away from the Tories’ toxic brand of short-termism. The Conservatives’ lack of an economic plan for jobs, growth and living standards has cost workers and industry dearly. Pay packets are still worth less than in 2008, growth has been stuck in the slow lane and business investment is stagnating.

While ministers here have dithered, countries such as the United States have acted decisively to help their manufacturing industries move towards net zero with policies like the Inflation Reduction Act. The Biden administration has grasped the importance of investing in infrastructure to support and create good, unionised jobs. Labour’s Green Prosperity Plan provides a similar roadmap for revitalising the UK’s manufacturing heartlands and for cheaper, cleaner energy. It can’t come soon enough.

If we are to create an economy that works for all, we must end Britain’s insecure work epidemic. Nearly four million workers in the UK are trapped in low-paid jobs that offer them little or no security. Despite recent scandals like at P&O ferries, bad employers can still get away with undercutting the good by treating their staff like disposable labour. Having promised for years to bring forward an employment bill to improve people’s rights at work, the Tories turned their back on vulnerable workers to keep their backbenchers happy.  

That’s why Labour’s New Deal for Working People is so important. It would be the biggest upgrade of workers’ rights in a generation. The New Deal for Working People will introduce day-one employment rights for millions of workers. It will boost vital protections like sick pay, It will ban exploitative practices like zero-hours contracts and fire and rehire. And it will roll out sector-wide, fair-pay agreements, starting with social care.  

For millions of working families these protections matter – offering them the chance of more secure contracts, fairer wages and better income protection should they become unwell. Labour working together with unions can end the race to the bottom on pay and conditions and give people across the country the better working lives they deserve. 

[See also: The school concrete crisis should terrify the Tories]

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