From recession to recovery
The recession has been the worst since the 1930s with the UK economy shrinking by nearly 4% in 2009/2010. Not only has it been deep but the global financial collapse, which begun in the USA, has meant that the recession arrived more swiftly than any in living memory. The mounting toll of job losses has led to rapidly rising unemployment and increasingly severe reappraisals of the future, drawing the economy further into gloom and recession. Unions have had to respond at speed to hasty reassessments by employers of their financial situation, exposure to risk and market sustainability, which has led to some radical steps including semi-nationalisation and multi-billion pound bail outs of financial institutions. The recession has taken hold globally. International companies have cut production and jobs worldwide. While governments and unions have responded differently to both the threats to members jobs and conditions and to the opportunities this presents for union organisation. Trades Union Councils should develop their own programme of work which should be capable of identifying and responding to the particular needs of their community during the economic down-turn. Publicity is an invaluable tool in the union fight against cuts and job losses, particularly where the bargaining unit may be too weak, too small in comparison with the non-unionised groups of staff, or may be unwilling to agree to take industrial action where the union feels the employer’s changes are excessive or unjustified. Trades Union Councils should review their means of communications with the local community and local media and identify effective means of communications which can help in developing broad support for workers whose livelihoods are under threat. Publicity campaigns can be conducted locally, working with local unions, or work as part of national campaigns. Such campaigns can include petitions, lobbying MPs and government, both national and local, media coverage, talks, presentations, events, demonstrations, writing to directors and so on. Well conducted and inventive publicity campaigns can have far reaching effects as well as establish the role of the trade union council, and unions, in the public’s mind. Trades Union Councils will consider how they can act as the unified voice of the trade union movement in their area to influence economic development and give support to those employers willing to work with the unions. Trades union councils are to identify ways in which information about unions and the assistance that they can give can best be disseminated in their area. The TUC has developed advice material on coping with the economic down-turn and is available for dissemination by trades union councils.
Unemployed workers centres During the year each trade union council should review their relationship to their local unemployed workers’ centre, where it exists, and assess whether the Council’s and union input and support is sufficient. Contact details for local Unemployed Workers’ Centres can be found on the TUC web site by going to http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/UWC_Directory_2010_edition.pdf . Information about TUC Unemployed Workers Centres can be found at www.tuc.org.uk/extras/Hands_Up_for_UWCs.pdf The extensive use of the unofficial economy by employers, or employers who do the minimum to comply with employment regulations, has seen a rise in queries to unions from non-union workers about their rights at work. Trades union councils should consider ways in which they could deliver or support access to advice services at local level which would also promote trade unions in the community and to workers whose contact with unions will have been minimal. Trades union councils may be interested in the work being done in this field by Hackney Trades Union Council, working with other community groups in north London – www.hackneyunites.org.uk/ . This is similar to work being carried out in the USA with the development of workers centres. Janice Fine has been a guest of the London Organising Network and has spoken at the TUC about the development of workers centres in the US www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/speakout/janice_fine.cfm . There may be further ideas on how to deliver this work from another AFL-CIO linked group, the National Day Laborer Organising Network www.ndlon.org/ . Where a One Fund for All (OFFA) Scheme exists, trades union councils can practically support UWCs by promoting the Scheme with their affiliated union branches. Trades union councils should establish a year on year programme for this. Where an OFFA Scheme does not exist, trades union councils or county associations should consider establishing a Scheme to support the local UWC. For more information about One Fund for All, click on OFFA for a link to a PDF document. For a hard copy email email@example.com
Summary Develop programme of work, identifying and responding to the needs of the local community Review use of local media to identify effective publicity campaigns to let union members and the local community know how they can help to defend those whose livelihoods are under threat To act as the unified voice of the union movement in the area to influence economic development and support those, including employers, willing to work with trade unions Review relationship with local UWC and improve, if necessary, joint ways of working. If no centre exists consider how advice on employment and other rights can be delivered or accessed in the area, ensuring the union link. Consider developing the local One Fund for All Scheme