Trade unions, their members and their families face a challenging period under a hostile government and with an unbalanced economic recovery that looks set to repeat the mistakes of the past. This is set against an unknown future following the EU Referendum and the rise to power of the right in the Tory Party.
The result of the EU referendum will undoubtedly have dramatic effect on the priorities of the TUC and the trades union council movement in the months ahead.
It is vital that trades union councils are ready to respond to the effects of Brexit on working people, their families and the community. Trades union councils should undertake a review of their resources and identify how best they can respond and combat to the attack that will come on living standards, employment rights, the migrant community and the vulnerable in our society.
The referendum debate has heightened tensions around immigration and national identity, exploited by unscrupulous politicians. It also brought to the fore once again the inequalities between the regions and nations of the UK and the harmful impact that uncontrolled globalisation and years of deregulation, cuts and underinvestment have had on less prosperous communities. Trade unions must ensure that the response of a Conservative government to the economic crisis facing the UK does not once again penalise ordinary working people.
This programme of work sets out the broad structures to which trades councils should be working bearing in mind that priorities may change in the coming months.
The programme of work
Trades union councils and their community
Trades union councils will have a unique opportunity with the approach of the 150th anniversary of the first Trades Union Congress, called by the trades union council movement, to build their organisation and strengthen its reputation as the voice of Britain at work and as a voice for equality and justice.
Trades union councils will use their unique place in their community promote a positive vision of trade unions – a democratic force for fairness and progress in the
modern workplace in touch with the concerns of trade union members and the community.
The union movement must be ready to head off and respond to the threats we face. Trades councils will need to develop innovative and imaginative campaigning, build alliances and use national, local and regional opportunities to engage workers in key campaigns and support unions and their members where they choose to take industrial action.
The 2016 Conference once again committed trades councils to equality and to help build a strong, growing and sustainable trade union movement.
This year’s programme of work has six main headings:
protecting workers’ rights to strike, promoting trade unionism and building union organisation;
setting out the case for a high investment, high productivity economy with great jobs and skills at its heart;
making devolution and decentralisation work for people; and
reaching out to young workers.
support and campaigning for the Welfare Charter
fighting racism and fascism
1. Protecting workers’ rights to strike. Promoting trade unionism and building union organisation
Our job now is to make sure that the referendum vote is not followed by a prolonged recession or assault on those rights at work which are guaranteed by the EU. The TUC will put forward an alternative plan to stave off a Brexit recession, focussing on how to create good jobs and invest in Britain’s infrastructure. The TUC will demand a programme to invest in transport, energy, communications and council housebuilding. Our work for a strong industrial and manufacturing policy, for a skills strategy for Britain and to meet the productivity shortfall will be ever more important. And we will champion the rights of all workers to decent pay and fair conditions at work, campaigning for all EU-derived workplace rights to be retained in their entirety.
Trade union councils will challenge negative and stereotypical portrayals of trade unions, promote successful and confident trade unionism and support union efforts to defend and build workplace organisation. Trades councils are in a good position to promote trade unionism and bring unions together to strengthen collective bargaining and campaigning power. Trades union councils will support the TUC campaign to stave off recession and invest in infrastructure to rebuild Britain.
Use the approach of our 150th anniversary to build our position and strengthen our reputation as the authoritative voice of Britain at work and as a voice for equality and global justice
The approach of the TUC’s 150th anniversary offers an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen the trade union movement’s unique position as the voice of people at work and showcase the positive role of modern trade unionism in Britain. Trades union councils will use their campaigning and lobbying expertise to shape the public debate in their area and the political agenda, influencing opinion across the spectrum. Trades union councils will continue to participate fully in supporting the global trade union movement, promoting workers’ rights and labour standards worldwide. Trades Union Councils will seek to make links, including twinning links, with trades union councils and similar local bodies in Europe and further afield.
Trades union councils will ensure that the commitment to equality underpins all of their work and will provide leadership at local level in campaigning for greater equality and against discrimination.
Union rights under attack
The Conservative government, under whosever leadership, is intent on implementing a divisive and anti-trade union manifesto that will hurt working families, damage our economy and make inequality even worse.
Deep cuts to welfare can only be achieved by hitting the vulnerable and slashing the help that millions of low paid workers need to make ends meet – the very blue collar hard workers Conservatives claim to champion.
Conservative changes to the law on industrial action ballots shift the balance of power even further against working people, making legal strikes much harder and undermining civil liberties into the bargain. Attacks on trade unions – the only independent democratic organisations representing working people – show this government’s true colours. After the longest fall in living standards since Queen Victoria was on the throne, they are determined to weaken workers’ bargaining power and strip us of our best chance of improving pay and security at work.
Trades councils must continue to advocate to retain, enhance and extend to more workers the UK’s package of employment rights, protections and benefits. This will include arguing for fair wages for all, a real living wage wherever possible and calling for a lifting of the pay cap and the return of free collective bargaining in the public sector. It will include defending pension entitlements and speaking out for policies and practices to increase equality at work and build worker voice at every level, including on company boards. Trades council will also support the development locally of high quality apprenticeships.
And alongside it, as we approach our 150th year, we must set out anew our vision for how
The task that trade unions and trades union councils face is to build our strength in workplaces and reach out to communities. Trade unions need to win new allies and maximise pressure on the government to resist their worst proposals. We need to show that exploitation is to blame for low pay and lousy jobs not migrant workers.
Trades councils will promote in their communities union policies which create an economy that delivers decent jobs for everyone, including how we use new advances in technology to create better jobs and raise productivity, and to make sure working people get the skills so they can benefit.
Trade unions need to construct a movement for a positive alternative based on an end to austerity economics. Trade unions must show how the best performing economies are built on a fair society, great public services and decent rights for all.
Trades union councils have a vital role to play in this campaign – building union strength in the community, ensuring that the real facts about unions and the contribution the make to our society is got across and understood by society at local and national level.
Trades union councils must also be there to support unions in building those new alliances in the workplace, help grow union membership and build a mass movement to put pressure on government.
This is no easy challenge but the solidarity and shared values upon which the trade union movement is built hold true and our ranks are resilient. That gives us a strong foundation on which to win – not just for our members but for our wider communities too.
2. An end to austerity economics
Trades union councils will:
Use every opportunity to expose how austerity fails and rips the local community apart
Press for an alternative economic model at local and national level which delivers good sustainable jobs for all
The fight against austerity is a campaign priority. We will resist cuts and wage freezes. We will fight for decent jobs, particularly for young people, and investment in skills. We will press for fair tax that stops avoidance and evasion and makes those who profited the most pay the costs of clearing-up the damage. We will defend gains made that advance equality, as women, black and minority ethnic(BME), disabled and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) citizens suffer as services are cut and the economy slows.
Cuts in public sector jobs inevitably lead to cuts in services, affecting entire communities and our quality of life.
Rather than build a new, less unequal and more sustainable economy this government, under whosoever’s leadership, will continue to shrink the state, reduce rights and set inequality in stone.
Protecting the environment
Fracking, managing climate change and the promotion of greener cities through the better use of public transport were debated at the 2016 trades union councils
conference. Conference resolved to tackle climate change through all channels.
Trades councils are called on to join with community groups to campaign for the expansion and development of public transport.
Similarly, trades councils will need to work with community campaigners to resist the roll out of fracking which is not only environmentally damaging but also threatens local democracy because of the draconian measures used to push through planning permission.
The TUCJCC continues to support the People’s Assembly and the People’s Assembly Manifesto
The TUCJCC is calling on all trades union councils to:
To support the People’s Assembly and promote it locally;
Respond positively to approaches for Assembly activists to regularly attend
trades union council meetings;
Identify a “link person” with the Assembly, keep it on the trades council agenda and contact the People’s Assembly at firstname.lastname@example.org . Also to create an account with the People’s Assembly at www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/.
The People’s Assembly Manifesto has identified set of six major reforms to reverse the crisis and the government’s austerity policy:
A fair economy for a fairer Britain
More and better jobs
Decent homes for all
Protecting and improving public services
A secure and sustainable future and for urgent action against global warming.
These principles, and the programme behind them, have been endorsed by Congress as well as the trades union council conference.
Trades union councils are asked to work with the People’s Assembly in their campaigning. Information about the People’s Assembly and the manifesto can be found at www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/ .or write to: The People’s Assembly, 52 Beachy Road, London E3 2NS
Trades union councils will fight for an alternative – a future that works.
3. Making devolution and decentralisation work for people
With decentralization and devolution high up on the Government’s agenda trades unions councils will support the TUC campaign to capitalise on the opportunities of devolution as agreed at the 2015 and 2016 Conferences.
Trades unions councils will support campaigns for combined authorities to look at social priorities and promote green energy within proposals for devolved economic strategies. While supporting Trade Unions in defending jobs, protecting public services and negotiating to involve workers in the decision making process, all citizens and communities should be encouraged to participate in democratic accountability.
Local Trades union councils will need to consider how they will lead the campaign for democratisation as services are devolved in their area with local trade union branches. This can be done in addition to continuing to build an anti-austerity message within local communities. As supported at the 2016 trades union councils conference they should continue to work with organisations such as the People’s Assembly and to campaign for the Labour Party to adopt Socialist policies while maintaining a democratic structure and towards a people’s manifesto.
The much publicised ‘Northern powerhouse’ idea and the devolution of control of public services could offer opportunities for unions, but they also pose significant risks to national public service standards, pay arrangements and accountability.
Trades union councils will also:
Campaign locally for a strong union voice in decentralised and devolved administrations, building on the social partnership model in Wales.
Support campaigns to resist further breaking up of national bargaining and employment law, health and safety, equalities and NMW legislation – on which many collective agreements build – which could lead to a race to the bottom.
Support unions in the public sector in campaigns to organise and bargain effectively, even in a fragmented environment.
4. Reaching out to young workers
Many young people have a poor experience of work – certainly compared to the expectations of their parents when they started out in the labour market.
Young workers are more likely than older workers to be poorly-paid, work part-time or be unemployed or underemployed. This partly reflects the fact that the vast majority of young workers (88%) are employed in the private sector, and within that, primarily in hospitality and retail, as well as in smaller workplaces.
Young people are on the front line of austerity, often stuck in low paid jobs below their talent, sometimes saddled with student debt and often with little chance of saving enough for a deposit to rent – never mind buy – a home of their own. The picture for young women, black and ethnic minority, lesbian and gay, disabled and other groups facing prejudice and discrimination is even worse.
Union membership and density among young workers is low, and young people are increasingly working in industries where jobs are insecure, staff turnover is high and there is little trade union presence.
Yet all the evidence is that many more young people support trade union values and campaigns. Our challenge is to reach out to new generation of workers – and the next generation of union leaders – and covert that sympathy into strong union organisation.
The key way to improve the experience of work for young workers is to increase union influence, grow trade union membership, density and the coverage of collective bargaining. The TUC’s new Reaching Young Workers initiative, launched last year and continuing in 2016-17, aims to raise the profile and appeal of trade unionism amongst young people, and make sure that trade unionism works for young people.
In the coming year, the TUC will launch a range of high-profile campaigns about workplace issues that matter to young people. It will signpost young workers to help with the problems they face at work, to show that trade unions understand young people’s concerns. The TUC will work with unions to develop and test a set of new models of collective organisation that are attractive for young workers, scaling up those which show promise. The TUC will build organising capacity amongst the next generation of union reps, enhance the involvement of young people in the TUC and showcase the work that unions are doing to recruit young members. And the TUC will work with member unions to deliver a step-change in unions’ digital communications, to help unions meet members’ expectations and be fit for the future.
Trades union councils will:
Support the TUC public facing campaign designed to appeal to young workers
Work with unions locally to develop ways to make it easier for young people to join and be active in trade unions.
Support union organising campaigns with young workers in the private sector
Develop their on-line and social media communications
5. Defending the Welfare State
Defence of the public sector was a key element of the discussions at this year’s conference.
Trades union councils will:
Oppose outsourcing and privatisation at local and national level
Fight NHS fragmentation, defend local health services and campaign for a publicly accountable NHS
Expose the effects of the government’s cuts on services, benefits and working people at local level
Campaign to defend welfare and oppose the stigmatisation of claimants Public services are under huge pressure. Local councils are being hammered and will have to rely on the business rate after 2020 when all support for local authorities will be withdrawn by central government.
The Tories promised that the NHS would be protected, but waiting times are up, bed shortages common and GP services barely able to cope, with many practices closing.
The public realm is under a dangerous twin attack. Austerity economics is used to justify cuts, but the real objective is just as much to shrink the state permanently and open up vital services to private profit. This is a political choice, not an economic necessity.
The welfare state – the safety net which any of us might need – is threatened. Ministers and their media allies have used public hostility against those who cheat the system to try to undermine the whole welfare system. The unemployed are increasingly treated as if losing their job was their fault, with a six-week wait for any benefits, an unfair sanctions regime and workfare schemes no different from those used for offenders being punished by the courts.
The TUC and the TUCJCC are asking trades union councils to build and extend alliances with service users, PCS and Unite Community members, and the wider
community, to work with every possible ally to defend the welfare state and public services realm against privatisation.
Trades union councils are asked to continue to monitor and publicise the damage to local health services through privatisation and to champion, with local health
service unions, the NHS in their area. This supports the call from this year’s conference for all affiliated unions and regional organisations to throw their weight
behind such campaigns.
Trades union councils will campaign for the Welfare Charter which was adopted at
the 2016 trades union councils conference. The Welfare Charter is the subject of
this year’s motion to Congress.
The Welfare Charter sets out eight key commitments
1. A political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs
People are entitled to decent, stable and secure jobs that provide regular,
guaranteed hours that allows them to also meet any caring responsibilities; not zero
hours contracts in precarious jobs.
2. A wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end
We need a National Living Wage that people can live on, not just survive on, that
applies to all.
3. No work conscription – keep volunteering voluntary
Forcing people to work for free on pain of losing benefits is simply providing free
labour to organisations that should be paying workers proper wages.
4. Representation for unemployed workers Everyone should have access to an advocate to help them navigate the social security system and appeal adverse decisions.
5. Appoint an Ombudsman for claimants A Claimants Ombudsman should be appointed to arbitrate on unresolved complaints, to ensure claimants are treated with respect and dignity.
6. Equality in the labour market and workplace; equality in access to benefits. We need a labour market where structural inequalities are overturned and a benefit system that is accessible to people.
7. An end to the sanctions regime and current Work Capability Assessment – full maintenance for the unemployed and underemployed.
We need a non-means tested, non-discriminatory benefit payable to all, with housing costs met. This must be allied with the wide provision of low cost housing.
8. State provision of high quality information, advice and guidance on employment, training and careers
There must be a supportive and independent careers and job-broking service, not linked to conditionality or benefits, offering face to face advice.
Fighting service cuts, defending welfare and opposing privatisation will be key campaigns for trades union councils and communities.
6. Anti-fascism and racism
In the days since the EU referendum result was announced there has been widespread assaults on immigrant communities and people. The leave vote has legitimised the hateful views of far right organisations as well as given expression to the xenophobia of UKIP and some union members.
This year’s conference also reaffirmed its policy in promoting racial justice, engaging in anti-racist awareness promotions and sharing anti-racist materials in the workplace and in the community. This was in recognition of the rise in popularity of right wing groups in union structures. These groups could be a real threat to unity amongst workers in the fight for workplace and justice and defence of the living standards.
The 2016 trades union council conference also passed a resolution which condemned the escalating incursions by government into professional life in the name of security and immigration controls and identified the Prevent agenda as racist. Conference called for a government anti-extremism strategy that targets all forms of domestic extremism (including white supremacism) not just that found in the Muslim community.
Trades union councils and County Associations should ensure:
Union reps are informed of the impact of Prevent and provide advice to members
Adequate briefings and information is highlighted on the impact of Prevent;
Unions work together locally to ensure that members are not disciplined when they refuse to engage with Prevent;
Adequate representation and support for members who are suspected, suspended ort in anyway affected.
7. Developing a plan of work
As always the Programme of Work asks trades councils to help deliver a wide range of campaigns, develop links with local communities and groups and engage in a range of communications with unions, employers, government as well as their local community. It is a big ask.
You might find it useful therefore to develop your own programme of work. Look at the issues in this document which the trades councils finds of interest or is already
working on and wants to campaign on and set out a campaign timetable.