Today’s guest blog is from Steve Preddy, Regional Secretary of Unite the Union.
I believe all of us, reflecting on the profound difficulties faced throughout the past year, yearn for the potential of brighter opportunities and renewed hope as 2021 unfolds. The COVID-19 vaccines provides the best reason for genuine hope that there will be a return to a new “normality” perhaps later this year.
Something that both sustains and inspires me during these extraordinary times, is the dedication shown by our amazing team here in Unite South West. Primarily our incredible volunteer army of Lay Representatives both Industrial Work Place and Health & Safety representatives. Every day they make a positive difference to thousands of members in the union. It is to that unwavering dedication and hard work that makes it so important to celebrate trade unions and our collective achievements during Hearts’ Union Week.
Tackling the worst kind of employer behaviours is at the heart of Unite’s Fighting Back strategy. Fire and Rehire is one example of an abhorrent practice. Unite won in British Airways Cargo handling, we are fighting Go North Buses. Unite undertook the incredible Rolls Royce Barnoldswick campaign to save the site and jobs. Campaigns won by organising in workplaces and their communities.
Unite the Union Representatives, Officers and staff consistently provide every support to our members, with the most comprehensive range of services and support available through the trade union movement. Very importantly this past year, I pay tribute to the work of Health and Safety Reps in making sure employers provide proper PPE for key workers and carry out proper risk assessments in workplaces. Where employers fail in terms of maintaining a safe working environment section 44 of the Employment Rights Act has been deployed. This was used extensively and successfully by Unite on a number of occasions this past year and by our colleagues in the NEU, which in turn brought about a further government U turn on school closures.
I hope all people now realise that key workers, whether caring for our loved ones in the NHS and Care Homes or serving among the masses in shops, or those operating our buses, have been undervalued and underpaid for years. All these people deserve to be paid a respectful living wage and Unite will not cease campaigning for this, until it happens. In our NHS we support the campaign around a 15% increase in pay, in part recognition of their sacrifice and because of their ongoing contribution to the health and wellbeing of our entire nation.
Unite the union was instrumental in the negotiations with Ministers that directly led to the introduction of the Job Retention Scheme- a scheme not perfect, but which directly saved so many jobs. Unite calls on the Government to extend job retention beyond March, including targeted help for particularly vulnerable sectors of the economy like Civil Air Transport, hospitality, manufacturing and many others. They need to make an announcement of intent to do so now. This will provide reassurance to our members who are currently on furlough, that they will not be facing redundancy in the spring & summer and stop employers shedding thousands of workers’ jobs.
The battle to save jobs is vital, not just for the viability of the UK economy but for the health and wellbeing of workers and families. We know the cost of unemployment in terms of lost income, worry over bills and expenses, the disruptive damage to family and community cohesion and the impact that it will have on the social fabric of people’s lives right across the South West region. This will be disproportionately felt by the poor, vulnerable, by women and children and by those in the BAME communities.
Unite has devised a membership package that will maintain membership in Unite at no cost to the individual. The Union Funded Scheme is already retaining tens of thousands of members in our Unite family, those impacted by loss of employment through the Covid crisis and Brexit double header.
Unite also provides access to support, advice and training for members who have lost their jobs. Trade unions came into existence to support working class families. Unite maintains the tradition not to leave members facing difficulties alone. Though our Back2Work membership and services support, we help them on the difficult path back into work.
If you want to find out more about the important work of Unite the union go to – www.unitetheunion.org If you are not already a member of a trade union- I hope you will join us.
Please Stay Safe.