Labour hits back in business row with 'letter from the people' but accused of hypocrisy as unpaid internship boss is among backers

Ed Miliband has pledged to ban zero-hours contracts but one of the letter's signatories has advertised for jobs on controversial working arrangements

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Labour has hit back at the 103 business leaders who signed a letter supporting the Conservative party’s economic policy by publishing its own letter of support, signed by a mix of business chiefs, celebrities and workers on zero-hours contracts.

But the party faces accusations of hypocrisy as it emerged that one of the signatories has advertised for unpaid internships at his firm, a practice Ed Miliband has described as an “injustice” that is “exploiting people” and has pledged to set limits on if he becomes Prime Minister.

Wayne Hemingway, a designer, is among the business leaders who signed the letter, but his company - Hemingway Design - advertised for a 20-hour-a-week internship for "expenses only", The Independent has discovered.

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Wayne Hemingway's design firm has advertised for unpaid internship roles

In the letter, signatories describe the rise of the controversial working arrangement as "a symbol of the failure of this Government's economic plan" and claim they have fuelled a "low wage, low skill economy that is letting down working people".

The letter, which has also been sent to the Guardian, says only a Labour government will "put working people first".

Labour claimed the letter was proof that it "commands support from all walks of life – because Britain, and British business, succeeds when working people succeed".

It came as Mr Miliband dedicated Wednesday to campaigning against zero-hours contracts, with Mr Miliband describing them as an "epidemic" and a practice that was "undermining family life".

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Nearly 90 per cent of Sports Direct’s staff are on zero-hours contracts (PA)

The Labour leader announced that the first Queen’s Speech of a Labour government would include a Bill to give workers on zero hours contracts a legal right  to a regular contract if they have worked without guaranteed hours for 12 weeks. Previously, Labour’s policy was to allow such workers a normal contract after 12 months.

The vast bulk of the 100 signatories of the letter are workers on zero-hours contracts. 

And in a move designed to show it is the party for "working people", as opposed to big business, the letter is signed by firefighters, hospital workers, receptionists, shelf-stackers and restaurant workers.

Business leaders and celebrities also signed the letter, including former Blue Peter presenter Peter Duncan, advertising guru Trevor Beattie and former BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons, the author of Labour's review into housing.

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Former BBC chairman Sir Michael Lyons signed the letter backing Labour (PA)

The letter was organised in retaliation against the 103 business leaders who wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph warning that a change of government would "threaten jobs and deter investment".

Analysis by The Independent later revealed that one in five of the signatories of the letter were given honours by David Cameron in the last few years, while one third have donated money to the Conservative party.

Here's the letter in full:

Dear Sir,

We all care about Britain’s economy and we all have a stake in the future.

We are all working people. Some of us run businesses, large and small. Some of us used to work on zero hours contracts, some of us still do.

We come from all walks of life; this is what Britain looks like.

We believe that the fundamental choice at this election is: who does this country work for? Does it work only for those at the very top or does it work for working people – those trying to make ends meet, working in British businesses across the country to create wealth and support their families?

A symbol of the failure of this Government’s economic plan is the proliferation of zero hours contracts which has helped fuel the low wage, low skill economy that is letting down working people and letting down Britain.

Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. We need a better plan for prosperity. We need a better plan and a better future. We need a Labour Government to put working people first.

Yours faithfully,

Aijaz Ahmad, Mandy Ambrose, Oware Ampem Darko, Stephen Anderson, Jonathan Austin, Stephen Barclay, Ann Barr, Trevor Beattie, Reece Berini, Emily Berrington, Andy Berrington, Fiona Binns, Paul Booth, Stacey Booth, Rema Boumerdassi, Melanie Bowers, Billy Boyle, Katy Bradbury, Matthew Brannigan, Darrell Brett, Matthew Burge, Nathaniel Butler, John Carden, Keith Clarke CBE, Naomi Collins, Kate Cragg, Kevin Craig, Marian Craig, Paul Cumming, Megan Davies, Phil Deary, Stuart Doran, Sean Duffy, Peter Duncan, Arnab Dutt, Arpita Dutt, Christophe Egret, Stephanie Elsy, Dominic Evans, Keith Peter Evans, Efe Ezekiel,  Mary Foster, Bryan fowler, Maria Geogiou, Suzanne George, Ewan Gibbs, Margaret Gildea, Lauren Gilmore, Karen Gould, Charlie Hanson, Nathan Hardacre, Emily Harvey, Ryan Hebbs, Philip Hedley CBE, Wayne Hemingway MBE, Lee Henshaw, Samuel Higgins, Colin Hind, Deborah Hodson, Martyn Hopkinson, Anna Hudson, Peter Hurst, Alex Ingram, Julie Ingram, Joe Jennings, Paul Johnson, Graham Jones OBE, Jodi Jones„ Emma Kane, Ali Kawa, Sophie Kennedy, Phil Loft, Helen Logan, Jo Lynn, Sir Michael Lyons, Richard Marshall, Eugene McCarthy, Billie McGann, Kevin McGrath, Clippy McKenna, Eibhlin McMenamin, Gina Miller, Colin Miller, Louise Mitchell, Reece Moore, Ghulam Murtuza„ Jade Nicholls, Tunji Offeyi, Susie Orbach, Rui Paif, Fayyaza Patel, Ashik Shamji Patel, Norman Pickavance, John-Jo Pierce, Claire Pitcher, Keah Pownall, Nicola Purcell, Georgina Ramsey, Robert Robinson, J P Rocks, David Rose, Ian Rosenblatt, Katharine Sadler, Kemi Saidu, Tom Skinner, Natalie Smith, Darren Smith, Raphael Sofoluke, Rory Somerville, Jack Spooner, Danny Start, Florence Stencil-Wade, Vin Sumner, Osman Tango, Alice Tarry, Nick Teige , Kevin Terry, Narinder Thandi, Callie Thorpe, Melanie Todd, George Torr, Nicholas Turnbull, Robin Turner, Emma Vickers, Dale Vince, Stephanie Webster, Stuart Webster, Linzi Williams, , Stanley Wilson, George Wippich, Margaret Wood MBE, Derek Wyatt, Rachel Yemm, Baris Yerli, Michael Ziff, Sophie Growcoot.

 

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