As the TUC’s annual Congress begins, the significant political events of the last year and the challenges of the year ahead are top in our minds.
The trade union movement is in good health, united, and determined to act as one in defence of working people. The outside environment is changing fast – both the world of work, and the political context too. Our ambitious plan to respond to this will only succeed if it is the plan for all of our movement and our allies too. Everyone can contribute to building our movement’s strength and resilience.
The political and economic instability caused by the vote to leave the EU may be prolonged. Over the longer term, job losses and lower wages are likely if the UK does not maintain a strong economy and access to the single market. We must vigorously defend any workers’ rights that are reviewed to ensure that working people do not pay the price for the vote to leave the EU.
The referendum debate once again exposed the inequalities between the regions and nations of the UK. Uncontrolled globalisation and years of deregulation, cuts and underinvestment have had a deeply harmful impact on less prosperous communities. We must ensure that the response of a Conservative government to the economic crisis facing the UK does not once again penalise ordinary working people.
The Trade Union Act was the biggest assault on working people’s rights to organise and to strike in a generation. While the Act passed, it did so with significant amendments as a result of the trade union movement’s determined opposition, detailed lobbying and concentration on winning over unusual allies. Now the fight turns to the further concessions we can secure in the implementation of the Act, and what the implications of the new legislation are for unions’ day-to-day work.
Alongside these challenges, the UK trade union movement has set out its determination to grow stronger, bigger and more effective at representing its members. A key part of that is meeting the challenge of engaging Britain’s young core workers. This group generally have a poor experience of work, being under-paid, in insecure jobs with little chance of progression. We will raise the profile and appeal of trade unionism amongst young people, and make sure that trade unionism works for them.
Finally, we will fight for great jobs for everyone: secure employment, decent wages and terms and conditions. There are many threats to this goal, including: the advent of zero-hours or very short hours contracts, the continued increase in agency contracts, worker surveillance, and the rise of low income, and bogus self-employment. Securing unions influence and growing union membership and recognition is the life-line so many workers desperately need.
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