On the second and final day of this year’s TUC Congress on Tuesday (September 15), proceedings began with a vital debate about preventing unemployment and building back a better recovery post-pandemic.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner, moved the main composite of the debate, and began by paying tribute to the millions of workers now fighting for their jobs in a range of industries from aviation, tourism and hospitality to retail, culture and manufacturing.
He thanked members who are “fighting redundancies and opportunistic fire and rehire attacks on our terms and conditions, creating safe workplaces and public transport options to ensure safe travel, and protecting skills and apprenticeships, offering real hope to our young workers and using downtime to upskill and retrain a workforce for the challenges ahead”.
Highlighting the general council statement, Turner said “it speaks for itself”, noting that “it details the role our movement played in securing furlough and identifies the actions now required of government if they’re not to abandon our class and communities to an impending tsunami of job losses and 1930’s levels of unemployment”.
Turner went on to call for “a new targeted pay protection scheme for short-time working and downtime upskilling”, one that sits alongside “a programme of industrial and company investment to safeguard industries vital to our recovery, and a job guarantee scheme for our young”.
He also called for investment in and protection of skills, knowledge, tools and plants “necessary to meet the challenges of the future”.
Turning to Brexit, Turner highlighted “the impending disaster of a no deal exit from Europe” and “the need to secure fair not free trade deals and a just transition to meet the urgency of the climate emergency”.
He warned Congress that none of the trade union movement’s demands will be met alone by simply passing a motion, for example, or writing letters to the prime minister or meeting with the chancellor.
“We’ve got six weeks to win the on-going support we demand,” he added, referring to the time period left until the furlough scheme is slated to end on October 31. “It’s going to take every ounce of our strength to do it.
“We’re going to have to win it — in our workplaces and communities, on street corners, buses and the march to confront our MPs in every UK constituency,” he argued.
“It’s our responsibility, our duty, to raise a call to arms and to inspire and mobilise our members, our families and communities to join us,” Turner went on to say. “United in common purpose, our movement can and will win this fight, striking a blow for our members, our class, our communities, against those willing to abandon us all in the name of free market ideology.”
Urging Congress to support the statement, he called on the trade union movement to do all they can to help in the fight to secure additional government support.
“Let’s not wake up on November 1 wishing we’d done more,” he concluded.
By Hajera Blagg