Labour Set for Crunch Meeting to Finalize UK Election Offer

(Bloomberg) -- Labour is holding a crunch meeting at a secret location on Friday to hammer out the final details of its election manifesto, with a potential row brewing with unions over its promises on worker’s rights.

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The Labour gathering will include party leader Keir Starmer, his deputy, Angela Rayner as well regional chiefs, unions and representatives of special interest groups within the party. As of late Thursday senior members of Starmer’s shadow cabinet were still in the dark about the planned location of the meeting.

One of the headline new polices in the manifesto will be a big commitment on childcare, with the party promising a specific, large number of childcare places, according to people familiar with the matter, who declined to provide further details on the magnitude of the pledge. The party will also promise further voter registration reforms aimed at boosting turnout, according to the people, who requested anonymity discussing policy that hasn’t been finalized.

The manifesto would likely include Labour’s existing policy to recognize Palestinian statehood before the end of Middle East peace talks, an apparent effort to shore up left-wing votes, as well as a pledge to cut net migration to Britain, one of the people said. It will avoid a commitment to scrap the Conservatives’ controversial two-child cap on benefits, they said.

But it’s the party’s plans on worker’s rights that have the greatest potential to cause conflict among those gathered at the meeting, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

That’s because the package of reforms, which includes an end to ‘fire and rehire’ and banning so-called zero-hours contracts, has been watered down significantly since Rayner first unveiled them in 2021, with more caveats and a promised consultation with business. At a crunch meeting last month, Starmer and Rayner discussed the proposals with union bosses to win buy-in and presented a united front afterward, but crucially without agreeing the final form of the package.

When Rishi Sunak unexpectedly called an early general election two weeks ago — setting the date for July 4 — Labour quietly published the watered-down plans on its website, but some union bosses are unhappy with the proposals as they stand, and will seek to beef the commitments up at Friday’s meeting, people familiar with the matter said.

Areas of contention for the unions include promises on fire and rehire and sectoral bargaining - both of which they will seek to strengthen tomorrow, the people said. Attendees will have to hand in their phones on the door, and will have an hour to read the policy document before debating it — a process that in previous years has taken up to nine hours.

--With assistance from Alex Wickham.

(Adds likely Middle East, migration policy inclusions in fourth paragraph)

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