UNISON urges greater ambition in defending workers’ rights

Congress hears call to step up the fight in defence of union and workers’ rights during Brexit

“If we want to redress the balance of workplace power we need to be ambitious … we can only be constrained by our own lack of ambition.”

That was the message to the TUC Congress in Brighton this morning from UNISON’s Jane Carolan, as she proposed a motion on trade union rights and Brexit.

Outlining how the UK lags far behind the rest of Europe on union rights, she told delegates that, having spent 18 months winning victories in the fight against the government’s anti-trade union legislation, unions now face new and “overly prescriptive” codes of guidance.

“So the fight continues,” she said.

Ms Carolan said that many who voted to leave the EU in June had done so to “stick it to” the Establishment, after public services in their communities had been slashed, employment had become insecure and standards of living had plummeted.

However, “for those communities, those workers can only make gains if trade unions have freedom and rights,” she continued.

Unions are needed to negotiate better wages, hold employers to account for “Victorian working practices” and protect the exploited social care workforce,” she said.

Urging the trade union movement to take account of the Manifesto for Labour Law from the Institute of Employment Rights, Ms Carolan called for renewed respect for the movement and for the right to join a trade union – stressing that the only thing that holds the movement back in its task is a “lack of ambition”.