Cable in pitch to the workers

Business Secretary Vince Cable during day two of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference
Business Secretary Vince Cable during day two of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference
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VINCE Cable will today make a pitch to workers as he seeks to shore up the Lib Dem vote on the left.

The Business Secretary will announce a raft of measures aimed at boosting rights for workers and higher wages for apprentices in his speech to party delegates gathered in Glasgow.

Mr Cable will launch a major review of workers’ rights in a bid to see what workplace laws need strengthening. The Lib Dems said the review could help strengthen the employment status of up to one million British workers such as those on temporary contracts who miss out on some rights and entitlements.

Alongside it will come a manifesto promise to merge employment law departments across Government in order to crackdown on violations.

His speech follows support for apprentices voiced by both Labour and the Conservatives in the last few weeks. Labour leader Ed Miliband said he wants to see as many people go onto high value apprenticeships as go to university, while prime minister David Cameron set a three million apprentices target for the Government.

Mr Cable said: “Workers should not be finding out that they are not protected by law once they get to employment tribunal.

“Businesses should feel more confident knowing what type of contracts to hire staff on.

“As the economy recovers, it is right to give a silent minority of workers, who currently have fewer employment rights, the security enjoyed by a majority of employees.

“The Liberal Democrats will ensure we will get a system that is fair, simple and transparent.”

The news follows a recent review into zero hours contracts, which revealed some workers could be missing out on basic rights such as maternity leave or unfair dismissal.

Vince Cable said in many cases workers are not aware of their employment status and what rights they are entitled.

Employers may also run the risk of a legal challenge because they may be unaware of rights they should give to their staff.The MP will also make a commitment to back apprentices with a pay rise for lower wage teenagers.

A proposal to create a single national minimum wage for 16 to 17-year-olds in work and first year of apprentices will be presented to the Low Pay Commission.

It would mean around 31,000 apprentices in the first year of their programme will benefit from a pay rise of more than £1 an hour.

Mr Cable said: “The National Minimum Wage has successfully protected the incomes and jobs of the lowest paid workers in the UK.

“This year it will see the first above inflation rise in the minimum wage since the recession.

“Thanks to the Lib Dems, apprenticeships are helping to create a stronger economy and opportunities for young people. I want the minimum pay for apprentices boosted by £1 an hour.”

It comes after Mr Cable told a conference fringe event that green taxes on energy are undermining UK exports by imposing costs on heavy industry which are not faced by their competitors overseas.

Liberal Democrats had to recognise that if the burden of carbon taxes meant work going abroad, then the impact of green policies was effectively to “export pollution”, he said.

Mr Cable also warned that British exports were being battered by the strength of sterling, which he said was currently over-valued by 10%-15% in currency markets, as well as by continuing instability in the eurozone.

He said: “We do have an issue which should concern us as Lib Dems because of our very strong environmental commitments.

“Many of our manufacturing companies and exporters are struggling against international competition because of the cost of energy. Now of course a lot of that is unfair, we have now introduced compensation schemes to offset some of those costs, but it doesn’t go the whole hog by any means.”