With the spread of the Omicron variant continuing, across the country people are facing an uncertain winter. After a challenging year and a half, particularly following the difficulties we all faced last Christmas, the disappointment and anxiety felt by many is entirely understandable.
Whilst the news is currently awash with negative headlines, when reflecting on the year we must be sure to focus on the positives too – both to give us hope and inspire us for the coming year.
The last twelve months has brought us many positives both as a movement and as workers in this country. Trade union membership has risen for the fourth consecutive year – the last time that happened was in the 1970s. This is a truly momentous feat that should be celebrated by all.
At Community, we’ve also had some notable triumphs in the last twelve months. We have recovered over £1.7million for our members, as well as £2million in personal injury settlements. We won more than 50 pay deals, including above inflation pay increases, bonuses, and better sick pay.
The challenges we face in the coming year are profound, and we must be ready to meet them.
We must pay tribute to our members who work in public service, such as in our education and justice sectors. Over the past year and a half these members have been on the frontline, serving and protecting the public during the difficult pandemic period. On behalf of everyone at Community, I’d like to thank them for their service. Over the coming year we will continue to campaign to protect and improve their conditions, as we did with the #KeepUsSafe campaign.
It is true that in some cases the pandemic has accelerated automation in the workplace. Any changes must be made with the involvement of workers and unions, and workers should be given the skills and training to successfully transfer sectors if needed so that everyone is able to get well-paid fulfilling jobs.
We managed to prevent ‘fire and rehire’ at Clarks this year, but we cannot see the wide-scale rollouts of these tactics, or anything similar, that are becoming worryingly more present. An increased prevalence of people working remotely long-term must not be accompanied by any reductions in rights or conditions for any workers. Trade unions need to be there joining workers together even when they may be working apart.
At COP26 this year, we won vital global commitments on a just transition for workers and investment in green steel. But climate change remains a threat to our future and the future of generations to come. We have the commitments in place from COP26, we must now use these as a starting block as we move forward. Time is of the essence, and we need to act quickly.
We know what it is we need to do to potentially save tens of thousands of jobs, and entire local economies, and tackle nearly a tenth of global emissions. We need a comprehensive green industrial strategy with steel at the centre, £3bn of investment to decarbonise British steelmaking and a just transition with workers at its core. We cannot afford any further delay; this work must begin now.
The last year has demonstrated the power in trade unions, and the difference a trade union membership can make. For the future challenges, we need to be ready to face them together.
Now is the time for us all to come together and celebrate the joy of the season. None of us know what the coming months will bring, but what I can guarantee is at work and at home, your union will be by your side.
From myself, and from everyone at Community, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0800 389 6332.