A Workers’ Budget: TUC Submission for HM Treasury March 2021 Budget

The devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is an immense challenge to society. We know that without protecting public health, the economy will be unable to recover. We urge the Chancellor to remain resolute in his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’. The measures taken to date have supported the economy and slowed a catastrophic breakdown in household incomes. But there is more to do to protect jobs, and livelihoods, and to support people who want to do the right thing to protect public health.

In the Budget the Treasury should pledge to support workers, families and businesses for as long as the pandemic continues and economic activity is disrupted.

  • The Job Retention Scheme should be extended until the end of 2021, mirroring the support in place in other leading economies. It should be  accompanied by a ‘furlough commitment’ to keep in place or renew support for as long as health measures affect economic activity, with the Chancellor providing a quarterly update on the state of the labour market and the support available.
  • The need to fix sick pay has never been more urgent. Sick pay should be raised to £320 a week, and eligibility extended to the 2 million people who do not qualify because they earn too little.
  • Universal Credit could provide a vital lifeline for many families during this time. It should be increased to a level people can live off – £260 a week – and there must be no rowing back on the £20 uplift introduced last year. The five-week wait to access the benefit must be ended. 
  • Key workers should be properly rewarded: public sector pay should be increased not frozen; and zero hours contracts should be banned.
  • Beyond immediate measures to protect workers, the government needs to get serious about creating jobs. The TUC has set out proposals for a public sector jobs drive, green infrastructure spending and a family stimulus. And there should be an immediate £10bn aid package to help industry cope with new trade barriers and make manufacturing the best in Europe. 
  • The coronavirus pandemic has revealed the depth of inequalities in Britain today, with structural racism, sexism and discrimination against disabled people resulting in sharply different experiences of the pandemic. Government must show how the measures it takes in this Budget and more broadly will promote equality and overcome the structural barriers faced by too many working people across the UK.

We must take the opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the pandemic. Serious flaws in how the UK and world economy work have been put into sharp relief, not least the poor pay and severe inequalities faced by those who keep the country going.  After the Second World War, the Attlee government built back better to a welfare state, the NHS, education and housing for all. In doing so they created a better economy and brought the public finances back under control. We can do so again.

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The Future of Education

The governments incompetence has been exposed time and again throughout the pandemic.  The grave fact is that it is incompetence reckoned in not just money lost but over one hundred thousand lives lost.

If only we could believe that if it were to happen again the governments response would be different, faster, thoughtful putting the community, not business, at the top of things to safeguard.

We have four great speakers lined up for this event with entry by booking and look forward to a good debate that brings out ideas of how we should move forward

Transport Workers are Essential Workers

Transport Workers are Essential Workers

We stand beside our affiliate RMT as they launch their TRANSPORT WORKERS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS campaign amid threats of pay freezes and job cuts.

TRANSPORT UNION RMT said today that it will be launching a fresh wave of campaigning under the banner TRANSPORT WORKERS ARE ESSENTIAL WORKERS as threats of pay freezes and possible attacks on jobs and conditions emerged in Government briefings over the weekend.

The new campaign, which will be rolled out through a high profile advertising blitz on social media and in press ads, will tie in with work being carried out through the TUC and an alliance of unions designed to halt the threat of pay freezes and cuts to standards of living across Britain’s public services and public sector in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

RMT says it would be a kick in the teeth for transport workers, staff who have kept Britain’s essential workers and freight moving for the past year whilst being disproportionately and heavily exposed to the virus in the process, were to be repaid with a hit to their living standards and livelihoods.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“Today, transport workers who are risking their lives keeping our country moving have found out they have been stabbed in the back by the Government who have extended the public sector pay freeze to the transport sector whilst at the same time it’s business as usual for the private companies who will continue to be able to rake in profits.

“RMT will have no hesitation in supporting national coordinated action to deliver our members the pay rise they deserve.”

Firefighters stitched up by politically motivated HMICFRS report

The General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union has condemned what he calls a ‘politically motivated’ attack on firefighters and their union by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

The Inspectorate has published a report, entitled ‘Responding to the pandemic: The fire and rescue service’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020’ which has been slammed as a ‘stitch up’ by Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary.

“This report is a political and biased attack on firefighters. It is neither evidence based nor an independent report and is instead full of untruths and omissions and we totally reject it. While firefighters are out tackling fires, floods and the pandemic, the HMICFRS didn’t even have the courtesy to speak to or provide us in advance with a copy of their report, which was passed to us by a journalist.

“The FBU has from the start wholeheartedly supported the response to the pandemic, and as a result of agreements delivered by the union, firefighters have been able to take on significant areas of additional work including driving ambulances, moving the bodies of the deceased and delivering vital supplies to the NHS and care sector and vulnerable people in our communities.

“But the message from this report is clear: fire chiefs and the government don’t want workers to have a voice over their own safety or their terms and conditions. That’s why employers, advised by fire chiefs, tore up a national agreement containing vital safety measures. This report is being used to undermine a trade union they consider a nuisance because it wants to keep its members safe.

“It is remarkable that in the same breath the inspectorate claims the FBU produced ‘unnecessarily detailed’ safety requirements and also that large staff absences driven by outbreaks ‘didn’t materialise’ in the fire and rescue service. How does the inspectorate think these outbreaks were prevented? It was a direct result of paying serious attention to workplace safety by the FBU and its members.

“It is also wrong to say that the FBU asked firefighters not to volunteer to support the vaccination programme. On 9 December, the FBU and employers signed an agreement that said should a request be received for support with vaccinations, that both parties ‘will move quickly to support such a request’.

“Our priorities throughout this pandemic have been to ensure firefighters can safely support their communities, the NHS, and the care sector. That means protecting their health but also the services they work in which continue to respond to emergencies A service with 11,000 fewer firefighters than a decade ago cannot afford for this virus to run rampant through fire stations.

“The FBU wants firefighters to continue supporting the pandemic response but sadly it seems the inspectorate, doing the bidding of the government and fire chiefs, is more intent on attacking our trade union and helping to undermine the terms and conditions of firefighters.

We must support the GMB dispute with British Gas

Centrica have made pre tax profits on excess of £900,000,000 and we consider the attempt to Fire and Rehire as cynical and opportunist at a time of national struggle.

GMB members in British Gas have announced five more days of strike action over the company’s fire and rehire pay cuts. British Gas workers rejected the company’s fire and rehire pay cuts with an overwhelming 89% ‘yes’ vote for strike action.

We call upon trade unionists and fair minded people to support the socially distanced GMB pickets Monday January 25, Friday January 29 and Monday February 1 in any way you can and to contact your MP calling upon then to back GMB members

Unite save Rolls-Royce factory

Bolton TUC are proud to have stood beside or fellow trade unionists in their fight to save the Rolls-Royce workforce

The Rolls-Royce factory in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, has been saved and with it 350 jobs and a community protected from ruin, thanks to a ground-breaking deal struck by Unite the union and the company’s management.

The deal, which has been supported overwhelmingly by the workforce, will give the historic site a new lease of life as a core manufacturing facility and host to a new ‘centre of excellence’, training tomorrow’s engineers to meet the challenges of the climate emergency.  

The deal marks the successful conclusion of a campaign mounted by the workforce and supported by their local community determined to resist closure, including nine weeks of strike action.

The future of the factory, home of the World War Two Lancaster bomber and birthplace of the Frank Whittle jet engine, was thrown into grave doubt last summer, after Rolls-Royce announced that it was transferring the production of its Trent jet engine blade work to Singapore. Unite members rightly feared that without equivalent work to replace it, the move would signal the end of the Barnoldswick site. 

The deal struck by Unite provides an opportunity for the site to retain advanced manufacturing for decades to come and position itself within Rolls-Royce as a leading player in the development and manufacture of the products and technologies needed to combat climate change.

In recent days the workforce has been considering the deal, giving it their resounding backing. The main details of the deal are:

  • A ten-year manufacturing guarantee for the site
  • A guaranteed minimum headcount of 350 workers
  • The creation of a ‘centre of excellence’ training school supporting the development and manufacturer of zero carbon technologies and advanced manufacturing excellence 
  • A guarantee of a two year no compulsory redundancy agreement to facilitate discussions on a plan to develop advanced manufacturing work, supporting carbon free energy generation, along with synthetic fuels and green technologies.

Paying tribute to the Barnoldswick workforce and community, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner, who led the team that negotiated the agreement, said: “Today is a day for celebration at the Barnoldswick plant and their community. They demonstrated real solidarity in the face of a genuine threat, stood together and have won a future. True local heroes who have inspired a generation.

“This plant has a great history, but it now has a bright future thanks to the courage and determination of these workers and the support of their friends and neighbours. It can look forward to celebrating its eightieth anniversary in 2023, safe in the knowledge that it will play a leading role in Rolls-Royce as it repositions itself to be a key player in green manufacturing.

“Threats to end manufacturing at Barnoldswick would have left the plant facing closure, destroyed this town and been another nail in the coffin of UK manufacturing. But heads never dipped, and the solidarity shown by its workforce and community has been inspirational.

“Barnoldswick now has a great future and will sit at the heart of Rolls-Royce’s UK operation, retaining jobs and skills alongside opportunities for the next generation of apprentices to become the country’s engineers of the future. 

“Today’s news also underscores the determination of this union, Unite, to retain manufacturing of tomorrow’s technologies here in the UK.  

“I’d like to recognise the role of Rolls-Royce CEO, Warren East, who was prepared to listen to a clear alternative business case for this highly skilled, dedicated workforce. I urge others to follow suit and work with Unite to do the same, to develop a shared vision and determination to position UK manufacturing as a world-leader in emerging and green technologies.

“Finally, the government must learn from Barnoldswick. It’s refusal to support these workers as they fought for a future sent a depressing signal. The on-going failure of government to develop an industrial strategy that intervenes, supports and invests in the development, growth and transition of our economy simply confirms that while they’re happy to talk about ‘levelling up’ our northern regions and manufacturing heartlands, that is all it is, talk.”

Ross Quinn, the Unite regional officer with responsibility for Barnoldswick, added: “When many could be forgiven for thinking there was nothing that could be done, our Unite reps led these workers and the town of Barnoldswick and collectively they stood as one to say ‘no way’. They united, taking to the picket line in all weathers to fight back against closure, and won.

“Today’s news is their victory and it is 100 per cent deserved.  

“People are very emotional as this means so much to the town of Barnoldswick. This site is at the heart of the local economy, but we also draw so much pride from its history. To lose it would have destroyed this town, so it will be a huge relief to people and businesses right across the community and in the wider supply chain that this awful dark cloud on the near horizon will disappear.

“I hope it gives heart to other workers faced with their own David versus Goliath battle that with Unite on their side, they can secure a future.

“Unite is now looking forward to working with Rolls-Royce to ensure that the agreement is a complete success. This workforce will be keen to put their shoulder to the wheel now, to get back to work and make sure the site has the bright future it deserves.”

As part of the campaign the workforce balloted for industrial action and began targeted strike action on 6 November last year which ran until Christmas Eve. Workers then returned to the picket lines at the start of 2021 (Monday 4 January). In total, the workforce have undertaken nine weeks of strike action.

Rolls-Royce is the major employer in Barnoldswick and the factory, the cradle of the jet engine, has been in operation since 1943. The closure of the site or a substantial reduction in work being undertaken at it, would have devastating consequences for the prosperity of the local community.