Tag Archives: jobs

A fairer vision for the UK: the challenge for the labour movement

29 Jan
by Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC
 

The year has started with an economic outlook as bleak as the weather. We’re stuck in the middle of what at best looks like becoming a lost decade. Jobs are being slashed across the public sector – including in services like health that we were told would be protected. And while we should be pleased unemployment hasn’t been as bad as feared, it’s still far too high, especially for young people.

The hidden problem of under-employment is growing too. Many people in part-time jobs want to work full-time, and many more workers aren’t able to use their skills and education to the full.

To make matters worse, living standards are stagnating as wages fail to keep pace with prices. Family budgets are under real pressure, particularly when you look at the soaring cost of what those on middle and low incomes actually spend their salaries on – food, childcare and transport.

The government is failing to offer a vision for the economy that works for ordinary families. Even before the recession, living standards were stagnating for the majority and the resulting unsustainable growth of credit-fuelled consumption was a key cause of the crash. There has been a long-term decline in quality, skilled, and well-paid jobs that should make up the back-bone of the labour force, as the short-term interests of banking and finance have continued to dominate the economy over the last few decades.

The labour movement has a huge challenge to make the case for a better vision, and this is going to shape my campaigning priorities over the coming months.

First we need the government to change course and abandon the austerity that is doing more harm than good. That means stopping these self-defeating spending cuts, instead putting investment in jobs and growth first.

Second we need a long-term vision of how we can build an economy that works for the many. That means leadership from the very top to drive a new industrial policy, including investment in the country’s skills and infrastructure, including affordable homes and transport. The changes we’ll need to make to respond to the challenge of climate change could be a key part of this. Banking reform needs to be stepped up too, and an effective industrial bank is needed to help us invest for the long-term.

And third, we need to build a fairer society – one where we really are all in it together. It’s no coincidence that the economic model that we’ve followed since the 1980s has led to a huge increase in the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us. Recession has only made this worse. We need to do a lot more to tackle the root causes of growing inequality.

This is why I want to see a major push for many more people to be paid the living wage in the year ahead, and a clampdown on the tax evasion and excessive tax avoidance endemic amongst corporations and the richest in society. We also need to begin a public debate about economic democracy, making the case that a fair society is also one where people have a real say in the decisions that affect their working lives and their families’ security.

Short-termism driven by runaway greed proved to be unsustainable and we can no longer entrust the best long-term interests of a company to shareholders alone. Giving workers a say over top pay through employee representation on company remuneration committees is one example. But it’s also about making all workplaces more like the best performing ones and genuinely giving staff a voice in the strategic decisions on which the future success of a company depend.

Stronger unions too must be a vital part of creating a better Britain, helping to tilt the balance of power back towards ordinary people.

I believe that when we look back at the period of deregulation and inequality from the 1980s to the crash, historians will see these as exceptional times – as damaging in their way as the 1930s. What will dismay them most is how slowly we are building a new economic model to replace the one that fell with Lehman Brothers.

This all adds up to a very different approach to the economy and it poses a challenge to all the political parties, employers and indeed unions. There is surprisingly broad consensus that we need real change. What we need now is the determination to deliver it.

 

Frances O'Grady

 

Frances O’Grady is the first female General Secretary of the TUC, which represents around 6.5 million trade union members.
Video

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Unite’s new animation on working people and austerity.

Remploy workers strike in protest at ‘hard-hearted’ government throwing them on the dole

19 Jul

Remploy protestRemploy workers faced with the dole queue are on strike today in protest at the actions of “a hard-hearted government hell bent on throwing them on the dole queue.”

Workers at the 54 factories – 27 of which face the axe – will carry on the fight to save their jobs with a 24-hour strike, spurred on by more than 7,500 individual messages of support. Each factory will receive a giant card with a selection of messages by tomorrow.

Last week, the government announced that the 27 factories will close by the end of the year throwing about 1,700 disabled workers out-of-work. A further nine factories face an uncertain future. The remaining 18 sites are due to close or be sold-off next year.

Unite called on the Westminster government to follow the example of the Welsh government which has pledged £2.4 million for employers who give jobs to Remploy workers when the factories in Wales close.

Unite’s national officer for the not-for-profit sector Sally Kosky said: “We are expecting the vast majority of the workforce across the 54 factories to strike tomorrow.

“They are rightly angry that they face a bleak future on the dole, as it is always more difficult for those with disabilities to obtain employment.

“Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith should take a lesson from the Cardiff government which has shown compassion and practical financial help to keep Remploy workers in jobs for at least four years.”

Remploy workers will strike again next Thursday (26 July) for 24-hours.

GMB national secretary Phil Davies said: “Iain Duncan Smith is systematically destroying lives by his hard-hearted actions. We will continue our campaign by all means at our disposal to reverse this pernicious decision.”

It is understood that an offer from the private sector to take over the Wrexham factory was turned down without consideration by the government – Unite said that this demonstrated that ministers were “hell bent on dismantling the 67-year history of Remploy for purely ideological reasons.”

The workers voted to strike because they believe the proposed closure negotiations were ‘a sham’; in protest at the intention to make disabled people compulsorily redundant for the first time at Remploy; and that the redundancy pay will be less than previous voluntary redundancies.

Unite and the GMB unions have been campaigning to keep the Remploy factories open as viable businesses and cite the recent upbeat assessment of Remploy’s future prospects from Alan Hill, Managing Director, Remploy Enterprise Businesses who wrote that: “We have grown our sales by 12.2 per cent, a fantastic achievement.”

The closure of the Remploy factories is a callous and self-defeating move by Iain Duncan-Smith. At a time when the jobs market is already hugely competitive, he is choosing to sack 1,700 people who will arguably find it even more difficult to find employment.

Please show your support for Remploy workers here.

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