Community rep, Meghan Marsh attended this year’s virtual TUC Congress. You can read her thoughts on the congress and five key takeaways below.
This year the TUC Congress had a bit of a different look and feel than past years as we all watched from our screens at home. Needless to say, though that we could still feel the applause from the heart felt speeches that were heard.
This year concentrated on how Covid-19 has affected all of us and our members and how we can recover going forward. Something that was made very clear was that we should not be going back to “normal”, as our version of “normal” was still not acceptable.
Something that has also come to light throughout this crisis is the poor or non-existent policies when it comes to sick pay. People that work for companies that don’t offer sick pay are having to rely on statutory sick pay, which is only £95.85 per week, 1/5 of the average earnings. This has meant that some people have been forced to go to work when they are sick as they’re unable to live on statutory sick pay. Workers shouldn’t be forced to choose between their health and their wealth.
We also know that those on the front line, who are putting their lives at risk for us all are not receiving a real living wage. This does not only include our NHS and health care workers, but also those in retail stores, public transport drivers, law enforcement, as well as many other key workers who are working tirelessly and not receiving a wage they can be reasonably be expected to live on.
The job retention scheme will be coming to an end soon which is likely to cause mass redundancies that should not be necessary. It is predicted that when redundancies are being considered minorities such as disabled or BAME workers will be at most risk of losing their jobs. It’s not right that minority groups bear the brunt of this crisis and the union movement has a vital role to play here. Not only this but the more redundancies made, causing mass unemployment will have a huge effect on our economy, with lots of people claiming universal credit.
Tackling racism has also been at the forefront of our minds this year with the terrible death of George Floyd. It is sad to think that in 2020, 43 years since it became illegal to discriminate against people because of their race, we are still having to stress to society that Black Lives Matter.
There is still a pay gap between black and white workers within some workplaces, and there are more black people unemployed. Statistics show that 56% of black workers feel underpaid, only 49% of black workers feel that they are credited for their work, and 33% of black workers said they felt that their race would be a reason for them not being accepted for a job (as opposed to 1% white workers). The anti-racism taskforce is starting this year, and we are hoping that us as unions, can help to develop a fairer and safer working world for our BAME colleagues.
Automated algorisms being used to hire staff is increasingly becoming more of a problem. A lot of the programs and tools being used in the UK are being developed in other countries such as the USA, where equality laws are different, therefore the discrimination that these tools have are posing legal implications. We need to work with employers to negotiate data rights for workers.
There is a severe lack of knowledge around those who identify as trans and non-binary, not only in the workplace but also in society.
A lot of trans and non-binary people are feeling like they must hide who they are, as they feel that they will be discriminated against and harassed. Sexual harassment against the trans community has become more prevalent. Many trans people who experience this type of harassment will not report it to their management because they do not feel that they will be taken seriously or think that no action will be taken.
A lot of unemployed trans and non-binary people are finding it increasingly difficult to find work. During lock down it has proven to be even more difficult for some LGBT+ workers as they have been taken away from support groups that they may have had in their workplace and been forced to stay in a hostile environment with unsupportive family.
As unions we need to help people gain better knowledge of people who identify as trans and non-binary. We can also help provide support for families who may be finding it difficult to come to terms with change of the family member and provide counselling if necessary.
We also need to ensure there is enough support out there for LGBT+ people and help them to not feel afraid to speak up or have ally’s that can speak up for them if necessary.
I hope that next year we are all able to come together again in Liverpool and that some of the subjects addressed this year can be spoken about in a more positive way.
For further information on all the topics that were address in congress, and to view the recordings of the speeches, they are all available on the TUC website here. Other topics covered by the Congress included; a new plan for public transport, climate jobs and global solidarity, the media and the virus, achieving gender equality in pensions and many more.
Community has guidance on tackling racism in the workplace which you can see here.
We also have guidance for LGBT+ workers and their allies which you can see here.