This year’s 152nd TUC conference in London may be very different as it’s being held on line – but the messages trade unions including Unite are making are crystal clear – workers cannot be made to be the victims of the coronavirus.
Ahead of her speech to the ‘virtual Congress’ at 11 am this morning, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady will urge Chancellor Rishi Sunak to work with the trade union movement to prevent a “catastrophe of mass unemployment” before it’s too late; and she will reveal that 2m key workers would benefit from a minimum wage rise – and will demand the increases as planned for 2021.
‘Job retention scheme must stay’
In a direct appeal to the Chancellor, O’Grady will say, “Unions pushed for the jobs retention scheme. Millions of livelihoods were saved – both employees and the self-employed.
“From this Thursday (September 17) it will be just 45 days before the JRS ends. That’s the notice period that companies have to give if they intend to make mass redundancies.
“If the government doesn’t act we face a tsunami of job losses. So my message to the Chancellor is this, we worked together once before. We are ready to work with you again – if you are serious about stopping the catastrophe of mass unemployment.
“Rishi Sunak: stand by working families – don’t walk away.”
The Job Retention scheme must stay. O’Grady will say, “The pandemic isn’t scheduled to end in October so neither should state support for jobs.
“It’s so much better to keep people working, paying their taxes, spending and helping to rebuild the economy.
“The price of unemployment is always too high. And it’s always paid by ordinary working families.
“That’s why we are proposing a new job protection and skills deal – a three-way bargain.
“Employers must bring people back, starting on shorter hours. During downtime workers must take part in training and up-skilling.
“And for the time they are not working, the state will subsidise wages, on condition that employers continue to pay at least 80 per cent of the normal rate.
“When the crisis began, the Chancellor said he would do ‘whatever it takes’. He must keep that promise.
“Some will ask can the country afford to do it? The answer is – we can’t afford not to.”
National minimum wage
TUC analysis published today (Monday September 14) shows that 2.1m key workers currently earn below £9.21 – the proposed new rate for the National Minimum Wage that is due come into force in April 2021, and would certainly benefit from the planned increase.
The union body says putting the brake on that rise would be no way to recognise their dedication and hard work.
Demanding the minimum wage rise goes ahead as planned, O’Grady will say, “Coronavirus is no leveller. It has exposed huge inequality in modern Britain.
“Hard work should pay for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of job you do. Yet many of those who kept this country going through the crisis don’t get the respect they deserve.
“They do valuable, skilled work. But they are short changed.
“The minimum wage – the wage of two million key workers – must rise as planned. Ministers: don’t punch down.
“Key workers have shown courage and dedication. Now it’s time for government and employers to repay that debt by fixing their contracts, raising their pay and giving people dignity at work.”
FIND OUT MORE
TUC Congress 2020 will run on the mornings of Monday 14 September and Tuesday 15 September.
Frances O’Grady will give her keynote speech to Congress at around 11 am today. Monday 14 September. Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer will speak at around 11 am on Tuesday 15 September.
All speeches and debates can be followed live on the TUC’s YouTube Channel and Congress 2020 live feed.
JOB PROTECTION REPORT – More information on the TUC’s job protection and upskilling deal can be found here
For more on TUC 2020 stay tuned to UNITElive
Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite