The trade union movement must “mobilise workers behind a strategy that wins”, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward has told the Trades Union Congress.
Speaking at the 152nd annual TUC via Zoom, Dave congratulated the trade union movement’s “army of frontline reps”, who played “the most important role” during the early days of lockdown by keeping “millions of workers safer than they otherwise would have been”.
Dave said that throughout the pandemic, the labour movement has “reasserted” its role in society throughout the pandemic, and “changed the mindset of the whole nation” on who the “key workers” really are.
After reminding viewers that “we are facing the biggest jobs and economic crisis in our lifetime” as well as a fight to save the planet, Dave set out three priorities for the trade union movement.
The first was to agree a strategy to “make the world of work the number one political issue, and cut through in the same way the Black Lives Matter campaign has done”.
The second priority was to “re-energise” the demand for a New Deal for Working People, referring to the CWU’s campaign which was supported by the TUC after being launched in 2018. Dave said that “it’s time” for the campaign to be “refreshed”, and that the demands of the New Deal be publicised and communicated to workers across the country.
The final demand was to call for a common bargaining agenda across the economy.
He said: “Too many politicians do industrial strategy in their head. Trade unions do it every day of the week. It’s time to mobilise workers behind a strategy that wins for working people.”
These demands, Dave said, will help us “lead the fight for a new democratic economy, based on the principles – our principles – of equality, universalism and collectivism.”
Vice President Jane Loftus paid tribute to workers who had lost their lives during the pandemic and those who are still recovering.
She called for vigilance against bosses, saying: “All people expect the places they work, where we do our shopping, go to work, that they should all be safe.
“Employers do not want to pay this extra money and will do anything they can do to cut back or tell you it is safe, and abuse people’s vulnerability during this extremely dangerous time.”
After describing the “bitter dispute” in Royal Mail and the attempt to change services during the lockdown, Jane mentioned how workers “stood together”, forcing the “union-busting CEO” Rico Back to resign – something which she called “a marvellous victory”.
Winston Richards discussed the union’s attempts to make sure that “equality is no longer on the periphery, it’s been brought into the mainstream.”
Describing the training for black members, revised reps training and engagement with relevant union departments, Winston pointed out that the union’s strategy “makes sure equality is brought not to the black activists but to the whole membership”.
While Winston described the “issue” among the CWU’s membership over “people who don’t recognise the relevance of Black Lives Matter”, he also described the success of the CWU Against Racism shirt sales and various education events the union has held.
Alongside internal reviews, surveys of BAME members and liaison with other equality bodies, he said this demonstrated how the CWU hasn’t “rested on our laurels” during the global Black Lives Matter movement.
The CWU’s Maria Exall also spoke to Congress, warning of the government’s attempts to “use Covid-19 as a distraction from its privatising agenda”.
Speaking out against a rise in homophobic and transphobic abuse, Maria told Congress that “now” is the time for the trade union movement to “act for LGBT+ workers’ rights”, urging delegates to maintain “working class unity” and to resist being divided.
Maria also called on the broader movement to unite against racism and all other forms of discrimination.
In the TUC Young Workers Forum election, CWU young member Connor McGann lost to the GMB’s Charlie Gray.
He told CWU News: “Congratulations to Charlie Gray. I’m looking forward to continuing our work on the TUC Young Workers Forum together.
“I’d like to thank my union for its continued incredible support and thank the various unions that supported me.”
Maria Exall was re-elected to the TUC General Council’s LGBT+ Committee.
She told CWU News: “I am proud to have been re-elected onto the TUC General Council, where I can represent LGBT+ workers issues at the heart of our movement.
“I look forward to working together with other LGBT trade unionists on the TUC LGBT+ Committee to challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in workplaces and wider society.”
Jane Loftus was also elected onto the TUC General Council.
She told CWU News: “I’m pleased to have been elected to the TUC general council again after a short term last year.
“There has never been a more important time for the TUC and all unions to unite and fight for services, jobs and against the inequality in society – both here and internationally.
“The economy and political systems are broken. Change must come that benefits all workers, rolls back austerity, provides equality for all and a sustainable green economy. Solidarity to all fighting against injustice.”