Labour leadership candidates Jess Phillips, Keir Starmer, and Emily Thornberry have given their support to staff at Labour's Newcastle-based National Communications Centre whose contracts were ended while they were pushing for better working conditions.
Thornberry told BuzzFeed News that the Labour Party should sit down with trade union representatives for the former staff, resolve the issues that had arisen between management and their employees, and seek to fill the roles it is now advertising with staff whose contracts were terminated on New Year's Eve.
Phillips has also pledged her support for the redundant workers — who are still fighting the party for answers over their dismissal — saying that the party of workers rights needed to reflect on how it had "moved so far away from our core values".
A representative for Starmer told BuzzFeed News that Labour should be a "model employer" and take "staffing decisions according to our values".
BuzzFeed News previously reported that former staff who were told they would be out of a job during the general election campaign had been planning to launch a collective grievance against the party over their working conditions.
Ex-employees told BuzzFeed News that they were told the party could not afford to keep them on beyond the election, but Labour is currently advertising vacancies for almost-identical roles.
One former staffer told BuzzFeed News that the NCC workers, who they said are "all Labour activists", felt their contracts had been terminated in the run-up to Christmas because they were fighting against changes to their employment conditions, including increased monitoring of calls. "It's been incredibly depressing and dispiriting," they said.
"Leadership contenders should be discussing this because I think it's disgraceful that its own staff are being treated like this," the former staff member told BuzzFeed News.
"On any issue to do with workers' rights, the Labour Party has a duty to hold itself to the highest of standards," Thornberry told BuzzFeed News.
"And based on these reports, it seems we have a clear duty to sit down with the unions representing our Newcastle centre workers, resolve their grievances, and ensure that as many as possible of the staff who have been made redundant are reemployed in the roles for which they are qualified, and where they did a great job under tough circumstances during the election."
"This is terrible. We are the Party of workers' rights and yet we seem not to respect those of the very people who give so much to our cause," Phillips told BuzzFeed News. "We need some real reflection on how we’ve moved so far away from our core values.”
A spokesperson for Starmer said: “These reports are concerning. Labour must be a model employer. That means taking staffing decisions according to our values.”
A representative for Rebecca Long-Bailey did not respond to a request for comment.
A Labour spokesperson previously told BuzzFeed News that the party does not comment on staffing issues.
On Thursday afternoon, a fourth leadership candidate, Lisa Nandy, also voiced her concern for the former staff who lost their jobs, and urged Labour to meet with trade unions to resolve the issue. BuzzFeed News understands that she has been in touch with the union representing the ex-employees to offer her support.
A spokesperson for Nandy told BuzzFeed News: "The Labour party's commitment to fair treatment of workers should obviously extend to its own staff. It's incumbent on the party to sit down for talks with the union resolve what is an unacceptable state of affairs."