(Bloomberg) -- The U.K. Labour Party ratcheted up its attack on big business, singling out five companies it said are some of the country’s worst employers, as it pledged to extend employee rights.
Amazon.com Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. “exploited, ripped off and dehumanized” their workers, Labour said in a statement late Monday. The party leveled the same criticism at billionaire Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct International Plc, Walmart Inc.’s Asda supermarket chain, and outsourcing giant ISS A/S.
The critique of individual businesses, less than two weeks before the general election, marks an escalation in Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign against a “corrupt system” that he says favors billionaires. The latest polls suggest he’s chipping away at Conservative Party Leader Boris Johnson’s lead.
“We’ll call time on insecure and unsafe work that leaves people without the rights and dignity they deserve,” Corbyn said. “We’ll call time on discrimination in the workplace that leaves women vulnerable to harassment and unequal pay. And we’ll call time on the running down of workers’ rights.”
Labour also vowed to:
- End “bogus” self-employment, so employers can’t evade laws protecting workers
- Ban zero-hours contracts
- Immediately introduce a living wage of 10 pounds ($13) an hour for all workers
- Require paid breaks during shifts
- Create a Workers Protection Agency with powers to inspect and prosecute employers
- Give all workers full and equal rights from their first day, regardless of whether full- or part-time, or temporary
The proposals are part of the party’s most radical manifesto since 1983. Labour has also pledged to nationalize industries, hand shares in publicly traded companies to workers, and install employees on boards.
Labour criticized Amazon for union-busting and its health and safety record. Sports Direct was attacked for its “exploitative employment practices” and ISS for failing to “respect basic rights or pay its workers properly.”
Amazon denied the claims and said Labour had ignored its attempts to set the record straight. “The truth is that Amazon already offers industry-leading pay, starting at 9.50 pounds and 10.50 pounds per hour depending on location, comprehensive benefits, as well as a safe, modern work environment,” the company said in a statement.
Sports Direct declined to comment directly on the Labour attack, but said most of Labour’s information about the company was “hopelessly out of date.”
ISS, which employs almost 40,000 people in the U.K., said it “has always operated with integrity and in line with all appropriate local legal requirements to ensure all its employees are paid fairly and competitively.”
Asda, the party said, “forced employees to sign a more ‘flexible’ contract that will mean they will no longer be paid for any breaks and be forced to work bank holidays and weekends.”
The supermarket chain denied the claims against it and said it doesn’t use zero-hours contracts.
“Despite the huge pressures facing our sector, we have worked to give a pay increase to almost 120,000 of our retail colleagues in return for a degree of flexibility that is standard in our industry and ensures fairness for all,” it said in a statement.
Uber failed to ensure the safety of customers or to pay its drivers the legal minimum wage once the costs of doing the job were accounted for, Labour said. In a statement, the company said that it will “continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”
--With assistance from Nate Lanxon, Christian Wienberg and Deirdre Hipwell.
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