UNISON’s Special Delegate Conference slammed the inequalities highlighted and exacerbated by the Covid pandemic and demanded a progressive vision for fairer workplaces across the UK, building on the work done in Scotland and Wales to address these inequalities and to deliver dignity for all workers.
Scotland led on a wide-ranging composite which put a focus on employment rights to protect the workforce and strategies to tackle institutional racism, disability discrimination and other workplace discrimination and inequality.
It also called for action to narrow the gender pay gap and improve the value of jobs predominantly done by women, which have been so essential throughout Covid.
Moving, Scotland Convener Lilian Macer told delegates that “since our last conference we have been in the eye of the COVID storm and it is UNISON activists that have kept our members and our communities safe.”
“Every single one of us in this virtual room know the problems that exist in our labour market. We see first-hand, in workplaces up and down the country, the cost of austerity, of the under-funding public services and of work that is increasingly precarious.”
Lilian warned that to recover from the pandemic we need a boost to the UK economy and fair work must be at the heart of that. She condemned Tory Brexit failings which may well lead to a serious weakening of workers’ rights
“We can all see that living standards are falling. One million people in Scotland are now living in poverty, with in-work poverty at the highest levels since records began.
“Two thirds of all children who live in poverty, live in a household where someone works and over 15% of all Scottish workers currently work for less than the living wage.
“These are shocking statistics that speak to a fundamentally broken economy, damaged by inequality and in desperate need of reform,” said Lilian, calling for a fair work agenda to be at the heart of the recovery, putting at its heart, effective voice, opportunity, fulfilment, security and respect.
“Workers want good quality work. They want to be treated with dignity and respect. They don’t want a job that leaves them guessing at the end of the month if they will be able to pay their rent or their mortgage, or that deprives them of a public sector pension,” slammed Lilian.
She pointed out that creating fairer workplaces across the UK is about raising pay and improving job security, “but it is also about ensuring robust governance systems, a workers’ voice within every workplace and investment in training and development.”
Lilian added that whilst the pandemic shown a light on the unequal society we live in, it did not create it. She called for a redoubling of our efforts to insist that any real recovery from this pandemic needs to create fairer workplaces.
She told conference that UNISON Scotland, working with the Fair Work Convention has exposed poor workplace practice, particularly in social care.
“We have delivered improvements, but we know more needs to change. Changes that would put an end to exploiting workers through the use of zero hours contracts.”
She slammed the lack of status and chronic undervaluing of social care and warned that this is not unconnected to perceptions of care as ‘women’s work’.
“We have dedicated workers in precarious contracts of employment in many sectors, where they have little power, influence or control.
“Let’s make sure NO Worker has to choose between keeping the public safe and feeding their families. Let’s see decent terms and conditions a right for all workers.”
(Story: Kate Ramsden)