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General Secretary Report July 2021

As some of you may know I’ve been a member of the TUC General Council for a few years now. We had a General Council meeting last week, with such a full and varied agenda, it occurred to me that there is so much that the TUC are doing, most of which doesn’t get reported in the media, therefore many of our members will be unaware of TUC campaigns and even successes, such as the Furlough scheme.

So, this month my report will shine a light on current campaigns.

Despite facing a third wave of the pandemic and the announcement that government restrictions will remain largely in place until at least 19 July, the Chancellor is pressing ahead with a phase-out of furlough. To be clear the TUC are calling for the Furlough scheme to be extended.

The TUC has called for wage subsidies and support for the self employed to be sustained as long as government restrictions remain in place, alongside ambitious investment in green job creation and public services; for the £20 increase in universal credit to be made permanent; and for decent sick pay for all.

Our current rates of £96 per week are amongst the lowest in Europe.

We have highlighted the role that employment contracts play in jeopardizing health and security, with the latest TUC analysis showing that black and ethnic minority women are nearly twice as likely to be on a zero hours contract than white men.

We have also called for the government to step in and support those industries hardest hit by the delay, including travel, arts and hospitality.

Confidence in the government’s handling of the pandemic has not been improved by the exposure of its procurement process by the Good Law project or recent revelations about the Prime Minister’s private views about the competence of his Health Secretary and then came the behaviour and resignation of the Health Secretary.

The case for a full and independent public inquiry becomes ever more urgent so that lessons can be learned.

The TUC continues to fight for an Employment Bill that addresses big injustices in our labour market. We’re lobbying for a £10+ an hour minimum wage, a ban on zero hours contract, and action to curb the despicable practice of fire and rehire. Our campaign against the unjust public sector pay freeze continues too.

We’re also stepping up our campaign for positive flexibility for all workers, while guarding against the risk of new class divides and a two-tier workforce. Too often the debate is dominated by working from home which, while the preserve of the minority in ‘zoomable’ jobs, could have profound implications for business models and for other workers’ jobs.

The TUC was proud to host a successful virtual L7 summit, with great range of trade union and civil society speakers from around the world. Among our key L7 asks were: decent work; just transition; vaccine support for poor nations; strong public services; stronger rights for workers and unions; and action on race equality.

Meanwhile, US trade unionists have had real success in helping to shape President Biden's economic plans - not just the massive stimulus packages in the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, but also pro-union, pro-organising policies which are levelling the playing field for labour.

American investment in the green jobs of future is worth almost £3,000 a head - whereas Boris Johnson has managed a meagre investment of just £180 per person here. Frances O’Grady met Chancellor Rishi Sunak to press for similar action in this country. The TUC is continuing to press for investment in green tech, transport, and infrastructure to deliver 1.25 million unionised jobs; for an additional 600,000 public sector jobs to repair the damage caused by austerity; and for a £10 billion package to help exporters deal with Brexit.

Our ‘long Covid’ survey (with over 3,000 responses to date) highlights the long-term risks of the virus, and what needs to be done to support this large group of workers in our communities and workplaces. We will be working with the disabled workers committee to get the report out and to host a “first of its kind” online seminar.

We want to see ‘long Covid’ classified as a disability, then we could use the equality act to defend our members.

One year on from the murder of George Floyd, the fight for racial justice continues in the US, the UK and beyond.

While the usual suspects downplay or deny institutional racism, the Covid-19 crisis has seen black workers and communities suffer disproportionately.

Our research on BME workers on zero hours contracts received excellent coverage. It highlighted that too many BME workers are stuck on zero-hours contracts, and face a triple whammy of low pay, limited rights, and an increased risk of dying from the virus. Contrary to what the government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) would have us believe, this is what structural racism at work looks like: BME workers getting trapped in jobs with the worst pay and the worst conditions, struggling to pay the bills and feed their families.

The inaugural sexual harassment working group meeting recently took place. Afterwards, we launched our sexual harassment toolkit, developed in consultation with Helen Mott. The next stage of the project will work with the women's committee on an implementation framework, anonymous climate survey, risk assessment/checklist and an exemplar sexual harassment policy.

Last but not least, the TUC continues to work with affiliates and allies in the ongoing fight against the far right. The European TUC recently adopted a roadmap on tackling the far right, crediting the TUC for our work pushing it forward.

I hope this gives you a flavour of some of the issues being promoted by the TUC on all workers behalf.

If anyone has any questions or wants to know more please contact me direct and I’d be happy to help.

The better weather has arrived and we’re all thinking of holidays now, whatever type of holiday your looking to have, I hope you enjoy it and stay safe.

 

 

Brian Linn

General Secretary

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