Delegates at the TUC Congress in Liverpool have been told the truth about the “dirty secret” of the employment figures; why the government’s Immigration Bill is a “disgraceful and cynical piece of legislation” and how UNISON has defeated the far right once and will need to do so again.
UNISON’s Nicky Ramanandi told delegates that the Office for National Statistics had finally admitted, “what we’ve known all along – the dirty secret behind the employment figures. And that’s that 1.4 million of those jobs are zero-hour contracts.”
She said that while there is no legal definition for zero hours contracts, they are very much a reality for UNISON members, with no guarantee of work, no guarantee of income, and no way to plan or save for the future.
She said that while they offer some flexibility, “the lower paid you are, the more insecure your job, the less power you have”.
She argued that zero hours contracts harmed people’s lives and their futures: “They destroy trade union solidarity, forcing people to accept less.
“This is why UNISON welcomed Ed Miliband’s three point plan to tackle this abusive practice. A pledge first made to congress last year. They are a good first step.
“But we will keep on fighting for stronger measures.”
Meanwhile UNISON’s Reena Wood told delegates that the government’s Immigration Bill, “should be of concern to anyone who delivers public services”.
She said: “It is the racist ‘Go-Home’ vans legislated into law and it should alarm all of us.”
“The new Immigration bill runs completely counter to our work,” she said.
“It is a high price to pay to appease the Daily Mail. To show how tough they are on migrants, government want to turn the health service and private landlords into a new arm of the border police.
“Fundamentally, it will mean that people from some communities in the UK will come under greater scrutiny than others.
“Conference, we need to make the immigration debate less toxic and respond more directly to the concerns that underlie it.”
And in a similar vein, Glen Williams told conference how trades unions need to be vigilant in the face of the rise of the far right ahead of next years general election.
Detailing the defeat of Nick Griffin at the hands of UNISON activist Teresa Griffin at the European elections this year, he said: ”UNISON activists in the North West tackled the rise of the BNP head on even as the media were pushing the agenda towards the right on race and immigration, ascribing the values of the BNP to working class communities.
“Trade unions have a unique role to play. For when UKIP pretend to speak for working class people, we should be there to expose their lies.”
More than 500 delegates from more than 50 unions are taking part in the four-day event in Liverpool.