Labour and the Past, Present and Future of Work

Most of us spend most of our time at work. Work is what we do, where we go, who we know and how we get on in life. But while they might have a lot to say about salaries or employment figures, our politicians have less to offer when it comes to work itself. Left and right agree we need more ‘good jobs’ – but do we know what good jobs are?

Answering that question is a challenge, especially with the changes brought on by Covid-19 and increasing automation, but it is also a massive opportunity for the Labour Party.

As the parliamentary expression of organised labour, the Labour Party has been successful in the past at offering both change and consensus around a changing economy and world of work. To do so again though, the Labour Party needs a clear, positive, vision that can engage with the hopes of workers present and past, young and old.

This vision must be optimistic, focusing on tangible future benefits. It must go beyond stale repetitions of what the party is against, and not be hung up on impossible promises to restore what has been lost in previous decades.

Progressive Britain have partnered with a leading academic and trade unionist to bring you a paper that is part of building that vision – setting out how Labour has grasped the politics of work in the past, the challenges of today and the electoral and moral victories than can be won should the party get it right now.

It is part of a forthcoming series of papers, workshops and blogs where Progressive Britain and our partners will explore the policy and politics of work.

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Authors of this report and project leaders

Andrew Pakes

Andrew Pakes is deputy general secretary and research director at Prospect Union where he co-ordinates the union’s work on digital technology and the future of work with an interest in how economic change impacts workers. He is also a member of the OECD’s AI Expert Panel and the TUC’s AI Working Group.

He is an associate fellow at the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre. His work on this project is in a personal capacity.

Frederick Harry Pitts

Frederick Harry Pitts is a Lecturer in Work, Employment, Organisation & Public Policy at University of Bristol School of Management.

He co-edits the Bristol University Press online magazine Futures of Work and is a Fellow of the Institute for the Future of Work.