'We need action'

Unite delegate Susan Matthews calls for action on equalities

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Unite delegate Susan Matthews gave an impassioned speech at TUC conference on Wednesday (October 19) as she moved a composite on winning equalities in the workplace.

What is needed, Susan said, “is stronger action – action is needed to drive an equalities strategy through our workplaces, as part of achieving a more equal society and to address unequal deprivation that people face in society”.

She hailed the work that trade unions have done to improve workplace conditions for BAEM and LGBT+ workers but she added, “We know there is much more to do. And that means taking action to make sure that we win in the workplace”.

“We must see equality in the workplace on the bargaining table and every negotiation in terms of pay and terms and conditions of employment,” Susan added.

“Getting equal pay for all is a vital part of winning a decent pay rise for all, with action to close the gender pay gap, race pay gap, and disability pay gap,” she went on to say.

Susan also called for training and support for all equality reps to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace – and to ensure these reps secure facility time too.

“Within our movement, we want to see union equality reps at the bargaining table,” she explained. “There should be more equality impact assessments and positive action in the workplace to ensure diverse negotiation teams and tackle under-representation in our own movement.

“Winning equality in the workplace is not just a responsibility of the equality rep but of all reps,” Susan noted.

She told conference that there never was a more important time for the motion during a juncture of “critical crisis” with both the government and employers using the current crisis to increase exploitation and make workers’ pay.

“And in doing this, they use divide and rule tactics, they scapegoat, and they try and play workers off against each other,” Susan added.

“We saw that after the financial crash and austerity measures that were put in place, deepened public spending cuts in 2010,” she went on to say. “We now have a political and economic crisis of this government’s making, including the cost of living crisis. And they want to make cuts even deeper – as if the first cuts wasn’t the deepest. And now it’s deeper!”

Susan slammed the Tory government which in 2010 tried to blame austerity cuts on disabled workers and migrant workers.

“They are using the same tactics again and it will get worse as the recession deepens, unless we fight back and fight to win,” Susan warned.

“We need action. We need to fight back by making sure that we take them on and put forward a winning equality agenda in place as part of a win for all workers,” she added.

Susan concluded by saying unions should be proud of the work they have done and must go on to publish an anti-racism action plan – a plan that’s not for show but for action.

The composite was carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas

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