In the first couple of weeks since the Senedd has returned from the summer recess, I have had a busy period in plenary – providing updates on the progress of the Welsh Government’s Social Partnership and Public Procurement Bill, answering monthly oral questions and responding to an opposition debate on a Four Day working week. The Social Partnership Bill will, amongst other things, place working in social partnership between government, trade unions and employers on a more formal footing in Wales and a Fair Work Duty on Welsh Ministers.

The coronavirus pandemic has really shone a spotlight on those workers whom we depend on for so much, from caring for our nearest and dearest to going about our daily lives. That’s why, the Welsh Government has committed to making a key election pledge to pay social care workers the Real Living Wage a reality. The Social Care Fair Work Forum is taking this forward, alongside more broadly addressing conditions and recognition for the social care workforce. Recent months have also brought into sharper focus challenges in other sectors, such as in hospitality and retail. In response to this, the Welsh Government is exploring how a partnership approach in other sectors can help respond to challenges not solely in terms of fairer work but also the sustainability of those sectors as a whole.

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way that we look at almost everything in our daily lives – including the world of work.  From a shift to remote working, whether at home or closer to home, that has shown it can work for both individuals and organisations, to revealing all too clearly the growing prevalence of unacceptable practices like ‘Fire and re-hire’. The UK Government has the power to take action to stamp out ‘Fire and re-hire’  – workers being sacked and then being re-employed on worse terms and conditions – and whilst employment rights are not devolved to Wales, I’m very much committed to continuing to championing decent and dignified work in our communities and our country.

And, as I made clear in my recent statement to the Senedd by working together, both employers and workers have a collective interest in the shared benefits of fair work.  Trade Unions should be front and centre of this work – they are the best route for collective representation in the workplace and have a central part to play not simply in driving up terms and conditions but in improving our economy as whole and contributing to a fairer and greener country

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Repair and Reuse Centre and Café to hear about the great work they are doing to prevent items from going to waste, as part of Recycling Week. The Centre has benefitted from town centre regeneration funding, as well as Circular Economy Funding, as part of the Welsh Government’s efforts to revitalise our towns and support communities to reuse and recycle items

The team are providing education and volunteering opportunities to the community, highlighting the difference that repairing and recycling items can have on our environment, as well as providing a meeting place in the café. I even had the chance to join in with an activity making purses out of old leather furniture. I would encourage Leader readers to find out more about what is on offer and even visit the Centre!

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