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One year on from lockdown, we need to build a better working world

Roy Rickhuss
Roy Rickhuss
23rd March 2021

Today marks a year since the televised address commencing the first national Coronavirus lockdown.

The twelve months since that announcement have often felt very turbulent and traumatic. We are all deeply indebted to those who have been working on the frontline as we got through this year together, and our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones to the virus.

Perhaps no moreso has the world changed than the world of work. Seemingly overnight, millions of people were thrown into a new and often insecure realm.

The office or factory was replaced by the home, the break room by the video call, and many were either furloughed or lost their jobs. For those who were unable to work from home, their place of work presented new risks and dangers that it had not previously.

Over the past month, we surveyed workers to learn more about their changing working world and their experiences of the pandemic. The findings were deeply concerning.

A third of British workers are now working longer hours than they did before the pandemic, and nearly half state that their working rights or conditions have gotten worse over the last twelve months. Even today, 30% remain concerned that their job may be at risk

As the pandemic has raged on, we had been in our members corner every step of the way – whether that be fighting to secure adequate PPE or Covid-secure workplaces, for full pay when on furlough or against reforms to the working week directive.

As we move from the last year into the next, we need to ensure that a better world of work is waiting for us – that the sacrifices and hardships of the last twelve months were not for nothing, and that lessons have been learned from them.

It is vital that workers are placed at the heart of any post-Covid economy and are not viewed simply as an afterthought. We cannot see adoption of “fire and rehire” tactics or anything remotely similar that are becoming unnervingly more common. We must resist the tide of “always on” culture and preserve a healthy work-life balance.

More widespread working at home some or all the time long-term must not be accompanied by any reductions in rights or conditions for those or indeed any workers. Trade unions, now more than ever, need to be the link between workers even when they may be physically apart.

The experiences of this pandemic will be ones that we all remember for the rest of our lives. The last year has demonstrated the power in trade unions, and the difference a trade union membership can make. For the challenges that lie ahead of us, we’re ready to take them on together and create a better working world.


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