Shadow secretary for business, energy and industrial strategy, Rebecca Long Bailey sent the message to workers of the water and energy network companies that “they’re still going to have jobs” when a Labour government takes their employers back into public hands.
Speaking at a party conference fringe event co-hosted by public ownership campaigner, We Own It, and union, Unite, Long Bailey (pictured) pledged all staff would be transferred under TUPE arrangements to the democratically governed and publicly owned regional water authorities the Labour Party has planned. There was, she said, “one anomaly:” any director who falls foul of Labour’s 20:1 maximum pay ratio for public-sector companies.
She reiterated criticism of the private model, including that it “exacerbates poverty, inefficiency, polluting and just makes no economic sense overall”. She argued that even the model of privatisation that was sold in 1989 – where individuals were encouraged to invest – has given way to corporate ownership as water has become “a sought-after financial commodity”. She commented: “People don’t own large parts of this industry any more”.
Long Bailey added with some water companies extracting more in dividends than they make in profit, “to suggest the public is not at risk from this is a fallacy”. She described taking water companies and the energy grid back into public hands as “two essential components” of Labour’s wider public ownership policy.
We Own It founder and director, Cat Hobbs, added these messages in her address. She told regulators they are “not really relevant any more, so it’s time to get a new job”. And to investors who she acknowledged would likely legally challenge their settlement: “The moral reality is we don’t owe these people a penny…If anything, they ought to be compensating us.”