14th – 15th September
Report by Martin Mayer TUCJCC rep Yorks and Humber , representing Trades Councils Conference
plus TUC Fringe reports by Nick Kelleher
This year’s TUC Congress was reduced to a 2-day online conference because of COVID
restrictions. The format was 2 morning sessions open to all trade union members (subject to
advanced registrations) and two afternoon closed sessions of an extended TUC General
Council to formally approve the TUC Statements and motions in the Final Agenda.
1. The morning online sessions, open to all trade union members
5 General Council statements were presented, all of which were very much pertinent to the
current COVID pandemic, our serious employment concerns and the economy, our demands
on this Tory Government and the trade union vision for a better future for working class
families. It also included 2 keynote speeches from Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary
and Keir Starmer Labour Leader.
General Council Statement 01: Safety first – working people on the frontline of Covid-19
Proposed by Liz Snape UNISON and seconded by Gail Cartmail UNITE, this statement was a
powerful attack on the Government’ failings to provide PPE, fund the HSE, support those
who were sick or self-isolating and deliver a credible testing regime and track and trace.
“Too many women, black workers and disabled workers found that when they were issued
PPE, it failed to fit properly and to provide adequate protection. That is why the TUC has
called for an independent public inquiry.”
Trade unions proved themselves during the pandemic and the role of health and safety reps
making workplaces safe was vital. Gail Cartmail called for an end to restrictions of facility
time and a new right of access for unions to non-union workplaces. The role of unions in
lobbying the Government and influencing their decisions should not be underestimated.
“The TUC successfully lobbied to ensure SSP was paid from day one for those absent
due to Covid-19. But the TUC is urging the government to do its moral duty and boost
statutory sick pay to at least the real living wage.”
Risk assessments should be compulsory and published, and a number of other demands
“commit to working positively with trade unions and employers identify and tackle
sectors where there is evidence of increased risk of Covid-19 exposure and where
there are increased risks to workers, such as increased risks of violence to staff
working in retail and public services
work with trade unions to regularly review the impact of local increases of Covid-19
cases, including on clinical staff, key workers and vulnerable groups, and be prepared
to re-introduce shielding for those groups
establish an independent public inquiry into the failings of government to have an
effective strategy covering the purchase, storage, supply and distribution of PPE
Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary; keynote speech
She berated this Government for rushing us to a speedy return to work and reopening
schools without a thought for transport and childcare. They should have listened to us
more, she said. Thanks to our lobbying we got the furlough scheme which may not be
perfect but millions of livelihoods were saved. But furlough is ending and this week
(Thursday) is the 45-day notice period for a possible tsunami of job losses if there is no
extension. It’s not true they are all “obsolete jobs in zombie firms”. Travel, arts,
manufacturing are all sectors which can’t yet get back to normal. We need to keep these
people working and paying their taxes or unemployment could rise to 3 or even 4 million by
Christmas. We need full employment! The TUC is proposing a job protection and skills deal
to follow furlough so that workers can go back to work part time and be paid 80% for their
remaining hours and given training. There should be no blank cheque for boardroom
bonanzas for employers benefiting from the scheme and they must pay their fair share of
taxes in the UK. “We will work with Rishi Sunak” she said, but he must “stand by working
families, not walk away”.
On BREXIT, she affirmed that we need a deal with the EU. The Government’s handling of
negotiations was worrying and it would be disaster for workers and the economy if there
was no deal. The young, the pregnant, BAME, and disabled workers on the front line always
face the worst if the Government doesn’t get things right.
She said the UK is scarred by racism. The trade unions have a proud history of fighting
racism. Employers need to publish the race pay gap and we should ban zero hours contracts
which disproportionately hit BAME workers.
Summarising, she said:
Too many workplaces are not COVID safe. 1 in 4 workers say nothing has been done
Instead of driving us back to work, we need safe workplaces and decent SSP
The National Minimum Wage must rise as planned. Don’t punch down on the
Key workers, thank you for your sacrifice and service. Now you need rewarding. They
need a pay rise now!
We need a new deal for our public services – we can’t go back to how things were.
General Council Statement 02: The Unequal Impact of Coronavirus
Proposed by Philippa Harvey NEU and seconded by Maria Exall CWU. The Statement opens;
“The coronavirus pandemic has shone a stark light on the deep and persistent structural
inequalities that cut across our country. Working-class families have been hit hardest by
Covid-19, facing the greatest health risks and now on the frontline of rising job losses”
Women, BAME, disabled and LGBT+ workers were most likely to be forced back to work, be
furloughed or put on inadequate sick pay. Black workers are overrepresented in low paid,
exploited work. They were more at risk of catching the disease and structural racism made
things worse. Women bore the strain of childcare and caring for the elderly whilst balancing
with working from home. Assaults and domestic violence increased – we need day one
rights for paid leave. “Coronavirus was not a great leveller” said Philippa Harvey, “so
equality must be at the heart of the recovery”. Maria Exall CWU said the Government has
sought to divide us with sexism, racism etc. LGBT+ workers have been hit hard, suffering
mental health issues due to self-isolation and increased homophobic abuse. Patrick Roach
NASWUT pointed out black workers were 3 or 4 times more likely to be impacted by
Coronavirus. Diana Holland UNITE said coronavirus has exposed deep inequality and action
is need now on safety, jobs and equality. We must stop the disproportionate impact on
BAME; stop targeting disabled, LGBT+ for redundancy; end the pay gap; stop the second-
class status for health and safety reps; end the hostile environment! Steve McGurk
COMMUNITY said 22,000 disabled workers have died, and many more were worried,
confused, felt unsafe and missed out on medical treatment. Disabled workers are vulnerable
to domestic abuse and social isolation results in mental depression and even suicide.
The statement demanded that the Government must promote equality in their recovery
plans and act now to tackle structural inequality
General Council Statement 03: Preventing unemployment and building a better recovery
Proposed by Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary and seconded by Steve Turner UNITE
AGS. Frances outlined the TUC’s plan for jobs, decent public services and a fair economy.
We have put together a jobs protection and upskilling plan to follow furlough but we have
to fight to win this. “Let’s get organised and fight for every job” she said. We need targeted
strategies for the sectors still impacted or we face up to 4M unemployed. We need to work
our way out of recession and working people must not be made to pay the price. We are
calling for a National Recovery Council with the trade unions at the table. We need stronger
rights, higher wages, investment in a green future and more collective bargaining. We can
create 1 million climate jobs and ensure a just transition. No worker, no community and no
region should be left behind. The post-War Labour Government faced a UK that was broke
but we still built back better!
Steve Turner UNITE called for sector and company level investment and a jobs guarantee for
young workers. We need fair not free trade deals. We’ve got 6 weeks to win the support we
need to force this Government to make the right decisions at the budget/spending review.
“It’s out duty to raise a call to arms and inspire our communities to fight back. Let’s not
wake up on 1 st November wishing we’d done more!” Dave Prentis UNISON GS paid tribute to
all the NHS and care workers, teaching assistants and other key workers. We can’t go back
to “normal” – it was unsafe, stressful, underpaid and undervalued. We need a new deal with
public services run on need not profit. Fran Heathcote PCS President said warm words from
Johnson won’t put food on the table. Give key workers the pay rise they deserve! Social
Security is not fit for purpose – we need help not the punishment of Universal Credit. We
need to recover taxes from the wealthy and introduce a wealth tax, she said. Dave Flanagan
GMB said 4M unemployed would be worse than the 1930’s. Too many manufacturing jobs
were outsourced so we couldn’t even make our own PPE! British Airways and British Gas
took UK funds and then sacked workers and took them back on worse terms. Austerity cut
services and slashed demand. We must fight against new cuts on jobs, wages and services.
We need a new economy – it’s possible if we fight for it.
The statement called for:
Government must protect and create jobs to drive a green recovery
Recovery plans must promote decent work and a new way of doing business
We must rebuild our public services
We need a real safety net
Workers’ voices must be at the table
We can build a better recovery and stop mass unemployment
Keir Starmer Labour Leader – keynote speech
Keir paid tribute to the unions’ role in the pandemic and said the Labour Party was built on
the strength of trade unions. The Government has let us down. We have the highest death
rate, and the deepest recession. The Government is to blame for the scandal of care home
deaths and a failure of the testing regime. We need a test and trace system that works, and
education safety. Instead they reopen the old wounds of BREXIT. “Get your priorities right!”
he told Johnson. COVID has exposed the inequalities and injustices in our society. We are
the 5 th richest country in the world, yet many workers are overworked, underpaid and
undervalued – and just one pay-packet away from hardship. Half of care workers are on less
than the minimum wage. We can’t go back to the status quo. We need a vision for a better
future and he wants to work with the TUC on that. Otherwise we are on the precipice of a
return to Thatcher-style unemployment, austerity, attacks on workers’ rights and a freeze
on NMW. With the virus increasing we cannot just go back to work so there is no sense in
pulling support away. We need new support to replace furlough for the sectors that need it,
and Labour will look at all options from the TUC and CBI and France and Germany. We will
put party differences aside to support a national plan. We must outlaw fire and rehire
practices e.g. British Airways and British Gas which is the last thing we need after a decade
of wage restraint. Labour and the trade unions need to stand together like never before.
General Council Statement 04: Tackling Racism
Proposed by Gloria Mills UNISON who called for equality and justice for all black workers
and gave solidarity with those in USA protesting Black Lives Matter. “Flames are being
fanned by politicians, exploiting fear and hatred – but it’s a matter of life death for black
workers” she said. The TUC is launching a new Task Group on Anti-Racism and will produce a
new action plan. Seconded by Patrick Roach NASUWT who said black workers are 50% more
likely to be on precarious contracts and 4 times more likely to die from COVID. The first to
be sacked and the last to be promoted. Susan Matthews UNITE praised the Black Lives
Matter movement and said black workers are not in positions of power but they are the key
workers. We will tackle institutional racism everywhere including in our unions and the
Labour Party. Daniel Kebede NEU said we must decolonise our education, tackle exclusions
which disproportionately affect black pupils and create an anti-racist charter for our schools.
He expressed solidarity with migrants in Calais. “No-one is free till we are all free!” he said.
The Statement calls on the UK government to:
implement all the recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned Review
urgently pay compensation and provide free legal support for citizenship applications –
two years on the victims of the Windrush scandal are still waiting for the promised
fully implement the Lammy Review of the criminal justice system from 2017
fully implement the recommendations of the government Race Disparity report
fully implement the recommendations from the McGregor Smith report
bring into force Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 – the Public Sector Socio-economic
Duty in England: this is already enacted in the Scotland and Wales
introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting alongside a requirement for
employers to publish action plans covering recruitment, retention, promotion, pay
and grading, access to training, performance management and discipline and grievance
procedures relating to BME staff and applicants
ensure all workers, regardless of immigration status, can claim rights at work
establish a decent floor of rights for all workers and end to abuse of agency, zero hours,
minimum-hours and other type of precarious contracts
ensure all migrants are able to access social security support on the same terms as UK
citizens by ending no recourse to public funds
ensure all migrants, including undocumented migrants, can access the NHS free of
establish an independent judge-led royal commission or public inquiry into the
government’s handling of the pandemic with a particular focus on Black deaths due to
Covid-19 and the contributing factors
scrap the “hostile environment” Immigration Acts of 2014 and 2016 and document
checks on employment, housing, banking and drivers licensing.
General Council Statement 05: A Global Recovery for Working People
Proposed by Kevin Courtney NEU who called for solidarity and internationalism. We must
stand up to the anti-migrant rhetoric in the UK. The right is rising here, and in Brazil,
Hungary, Poland and USA. There is a systematic attack on workers rights, intensified by
COVID and we have to show solidarity across borders to stand with those fighting back.
Millions are facing destitution, infections are sky-rocketing and there is a shortage of PPE
and drugs. We must defend our progressive vision of the world, based on investment, social
protection, health and education free to all, and a green recovery. He praised the teams of
Cuban doctors for their solidarity. “We are part of a worldwide movement in which
collective power is our greatest strength”. Seconded by Tony Burke UNITE who said COVID
has exposed the failure of the neo-liberal model. Millions of workers can’t afford to take
time off to self-isolate or recover. We have to end deregulation, privatisation and insecure
work. Trade agreements must not undermine union rights. We don’t want secret courts for
the multinationals so they can sue Governments. We want tax justice and secure collective
bargaining. Tony Kearns CWU said solidarity is the key weapon to fighting the neo-liberal
model of globalisation. He gave the example of the globalised parcels industry based on a
race to the bottom in insecure work and relying on outsourcing and agency workers. If this
Government thinks it can set aside the Rule of Law, then so should we! Unions need to stop
competing, set aside their differences and combine for collective bargaining.
2. The afternoon online sessions, restricted to an extended TUC General Council
In the afternoons, a closed session took place for extended General Council meetings to
formally adopt the General Council Statements and Motions and Composites from the
affiliates. There were no debates. All Statements and Motions/Composite were formally
moved and seconded and adopted without opposition. I mention only the motions I
consider the most important:
Motion 39 Opposing new Tory anti-union legislation -Trades Councils Conference
Proposed by Martin Mayer, representing the Conference and seconded by Steve Gillan POA.
Warning of the attacks to come under this Government, the motion calls for:
“-an immediate meeting of the TUC and the unions to discuss and prepare the union
movement for attacks by the Tory government.
-No union or unions must be allowed to fight alone – if any union is targeted by anti-union
laws, all others must come to their aid, supporting any action they deem necessary.
Congress urges the TUC to:
I. alert all local members to this attempt to undermine the effectiveness of union action
II. organise a special conference open to workplace reps and shop stewards on opposing the
III. organise a Saturday London demonstration as soon as possible on the demands:
– “Stop the Tory anti-union laws.”
– “Defend the transport unions.”
– “For workers’ unity against the Tories”
The recommendation was to support “with explanation”. Frances Grady explained that the
TUC cannot force individual trade unions to stand in support of any union facing attack –
that is their democratic decision. Also COVID restrictions must be taken into account when
planning and setting a date for any events. I accepted this explanation.
Motion 66 Solidarity with Palestine and resisting annexation
This was the only motion to this year's TUC Congress on any international issue. The motion
is a strong one and does advance TUC policy on Palestine. We will be an important voice
campaigning to ensure that Israel stops or reverses the illegal annexation, ends the
occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza, and respects the right of Palestinian
refugees to return. Importantly, it commits the TUC to take this policy to the European and
International trade union movement and urge their support. The text is as follows:
“Congress stands united in its full opposition to the Israeli government’s declared intention
to annex great swathes of the West Bank, a move that is illegal under international law and
that makes clear there is no intent on the part of the Israeli government to end the
occupation and recognise the Palestinian people’s right to selfdetermination. It will be
another significant step in the creation of a system of apartheid. For too long the
international community has stood idly by as the Israeli state has been allowed to carry out
its crimes and this cannot be tolerated or accepted any longer. Decisive action is now
urgently needed in relation to Israel’s illegal actions against the Palestinians. Congress
therefore resolves to: i. fully support and play an active role in the Palestine Solidarity
Campaign’s actions to build a broad coalition against the proposed Israeli annexation and to
urge all affiliates to do likewise ii. send a letter to the prime minister demanding that the UK
take firm and decisive measures, including sanctions, to ensure that Israel stops or reverses
the illegal annexation, ends the occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza, and
respects the right of Palestinian refugees to return iii. communicate its position to all other
national trade union centres in the International and European Trade Union Confederations
and urge them to join the international campaign to stop annexation and end apartheid.
The recommendation was to "support with an explanation". It was emphasised the
explanation was not a reservation but a detailed consideration of the use of the word
“apartheid” in connection with Israel and the recognition that authoritative voices analysing
the situation are increasingly using this word to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
Composite 02 The Economy – Unite, GMB, Public and Commercial Services Union, University
and College Union, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, Fire Brigades
Union, ASLEF, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union
“….Some of the workers society has depended on the most are those that the economy
values the least. More than 200 care workers’ deaths had been linked to coronavirus
to 25 May, the highest of any occupation. The median hourly rate for care workers in
England was just £8.41 in March 2019, poverty statutory sick pay rates are the norm,
and more than a third of care workers were employed on zero-hours contracts…. Congress
believes that workers should not have to pay the costs of recovery through further austerity
in public services, job cuts and pay freezes…. Congress calls on the TUC to build alliances with
industry and campaigning organisations to pressure government and lobby the Labour Party
to implement an investment and industrial strategy integrated with long-term wider
economic and social policy to meet the scale of this challenge.”
The composite calls for:
i. a National Council for Recovery and regional development councils involving trade unions
ii. a green new deal to create a new generation of jobs in the industries and infrastructure
iii. a multi-billion public procurement budget to Build Local, Buy UK, to rebuild and re-shore
supply chains and jobs
iv. use public ownership and government equity stakes with social obligations where public
funds are used, including protecting jobs and pay and ambitious equalities and ‘just
v. a target of full employment with quality job and pay guarantees for workers
vi. economic justice for those most affected by coronavirus
vii. fully fund a significant expansion of public services to meet the needs of the
nation with immediate improvements to pay and progression and sectoral
bargaining with the trade unions on the recovery plan to cover all workers in the
public sector or delivering services to it
viii. an end to two-tier workforces; bring outsourced public services back in house
ix. increase in SSP to enable workers to receive a living wage whilst they are off sick
x. trade deals that protect UK industries against artificial dumping and protect public
xi. a shorter working week with no loss of pay to realise the benefits of new
technology and to facilitate new green job creation in order to mitigate against
xii. keeping public-sector jobs based in local communities
xiii. ensuring that the needs of workers with protected characteristics are met
xiv. keyworker status for all public sector workers and for outsourced workers
providing services to the public sector to access more affordable housing.
Composite 09 A new deal for workers with a real living wage – USDAW, BFAWU, UNITE
Calls for an immediate rise in the NMW to £10 per hour and a call for £15 per hour for all
workers. It also calls for a minimum contract of at least 16 hours a week and contracts based
on normal hours worked. SSP should be increased to a worker’s normal pay. Universal
Credit should be replaced by a social security system that supports low paid workers. We
need stronger protections for workers, from day one of employment, against redundancy
and dismissal. Fair treatment and equal pay: many frontline key workers are women whose
jobs have been undervalued and underpaid for too long. We need more affordable childcare
and improved family-friendly rights, more support for BME workers who have been
disproportionately impacted by the virus and the crisis, and stronger trade union rights so
that all workers can benefit from a union voice at work. Finally, it called for a Ministry of
Labour and Labour Inspectorate to ensure that workers have a voice at the cabinet table.
Composite 11 Recruitment and retention and an early pay rise for NHS staff – Chartered
Society of Physiotherapy, Royal College of Midwives, UNISON, GMB, FDA, College of
Podiatry. Some extracts from the composite are listed below:
“Congress calls on the TUC to join NHS health unions in calling for a meaningful and immediate pay
rise for NHS staff.”
“The NHS is facing a workforce crisis – tens of thousands of vacant posts, rising waiting
times and unmet patient need. And that is without the huge demands that will be
placed on the service by the restoration of services suspended during the pandemic”.
“Congress notes that austerity and cuts to the NHS and wider public services didn’t work
in 2010 and it won’t work now.”
“Congress notes that applause for the NHS during the pandemic has translated into a
solid belief that staff deserve an early pay rise. UNISON polling found that 69 per cent
think all NHS staff should get a pay rise before the end of 2020; two-thirds believe such
an increase should be significant.”
Motion 47 An NHS supply chain that works for all – British Dietetic Association
“i. end the privatisation and outsourcing of the NHS supply chain with a simplified
system to be brought under direct NHS control
ii. keep all NHS services, including logistics and procurement services, off the table in
international trade agreements
iii. hold a public inquiry, as soon as possible, into their handling of the PPE crisis,
looking at the role of the NHS supply chain in the failings that have emerged and
are still emerging.”
Motion 58 Campaigning for a new deal for workers in the wake of coronavirus -CWU
“….This is the moment to harness our collective strength, grow our movement and
confidently assert our industrial and political agendas to deliver a new deal for workers….
Unions will work together to root out insecure employment, including through the
use of common bargaining agendas across sectors. “
Motion 60 Collective Bargaining – essential to rebuild our economy post-Covid-19 –
Professional Footballers Association
“Congress demands union recognition for all workplaces and to campaign for the
introduction of collective bargaining across all sectors of the economy….”
Institute of employment rights
TUC argued for furlough and PPE, safe shops, transport, schools and workplaces – want scheme extended
covid has further exposed insecure, false self-employment, indirectly employed and in-work poverty; lack of support for those forced to isolate
tu sectoral bargaining – to counter two-tier systems and divisions.
coronavirus not a leveller not all communities affected the same
can only work from home if food delivered and nhs working
80% keyworkers earn less than £10/hr, most of them are women and disproportionately BAME.
covid exposed inadequate labour laws:
- insecure work, unemployment
- unsafe working conditions
- fire and rehire under poorer conditions
- no inspection or enforcement of work laws eg in leicester
More austerity & economic liberalism expected
freeze the minimum wage in discussion by Tories
Capitalism will resist change to benefit the working class.
by Nick Kelleher
Green jobs/climate change
need more investment in low carbon jobs eg care work
localised delivery of service – key during Covid, been dying out as infrastructure and power moving to transnational corporations
climate change down agenda due to Covid priorities and drop in use of public transport
TUC and unions are still paying lip service to greening the economy in any meaningful way. Clear link between international solidarity and climate change.
Contradiction between TU role of protection of all jobs as no1 priority before political analysis and ability to influence power to change industry (swords into ploughshares philosophy) eg nuclear, aviation and defence workers; as well as energy and car industries where clear alternatives could be developed.
Tories leaving it to market forces will not reverse climate change; Corbyn would have made fundamental changes for a future better, sustainable society.
Unionlearn produced a new publication this year full of case studies of what is happening in workplaces. https://www.unionlearn.org.uk/
The UK is the 5th worst greenhouse gas emitter plus international trade and influence causes extra
poorest countries still paying huge amounts of income on historic international debt – harming ability to control their own resources and environment.
green officers/environmental reps etc hard to get any progress or facility time
XR – some employers sacking those prosecuted for some direct action
CWU – multiple parcel delivery services driving to same locations is not green
early retirement/shorter working weeks should be back on agenda
If governments don’t own assets (privatised) hard to control them
COP26 governmental meeting Nov 2021 Glasgow – Glasgow TUC demanding free bus travel, councils still have power; as in Estonia.
the lessons of The Lucas Plan are crucial if we are to convince workers and the trade union movement that there is a viable way to transition and diversify industries without job losses
Greener Jobs Alliance has issued some guidance for unions on this http://www.
Environmental campaigns labeled in UK as white, affluent. Environmental campaigners in developing countries are the poorest indigimous people whose lives are at risk. They are campaigning for their lives. It is the same global campaign.
XR members are often TU members.
Trades Union Councils can be more political than trade unions
Tackling racism @ work in covid
more BAME workers were put on front line with lacking PPE e.g. black workers denied Intensive Care Unit training were suddenly wanted for such work – more stories need sharing
650 health/care workers died, 70% were BAME
90% of dead doctors were BAME
33% BAME people think ethnicity will be a blocker to their career, 1% of white population think the same
More debate since George Floyd and online events
Government’s Race at Work Charter , ask employers to sign up, inc race disparity pay gap
many BLM statements from big employers – commitment needs followed up
Race relations Act passed 1976 making discrimination unlawful
Plenty of recent government backed enquiries into disparities etc. but lacking action on outcomes.
Global supply chains closed down, migrant workers died on way home
Workers of the world unite, not workers of just england, or white workers but all workers.
unison put structures in place 20yrs ago Stephen Lawrence, now 20% regional organisers and in other leadership structures BAME
redundancy and restructuring expected will BAME be affected? Take up individual cases and collective grievances. Demand and use Equality Impact Assessments.
More diversity throughout the process for recruitment/promotion.
Race Equality Councils amalgamated into Equality groups – ineffective
Direct action not single alternative, always pressures and compliments lobbying, consumer action etc
need permanent change as BLM falls from top of media
demos for BLM but not so much support for striking black workers – need to connect social and economic issues within BAME community
achievements after 500 yrs of systemic oppression have come from struggle – society always changing.
race, class, gender, internationalism all part of same struggle
trade union movement biggest working class structure
there are more MPs than Health & Safety inspectors