Looking to the next decade, we face big challenges as new technologies like artificial intelligence become common in the workplace, and cutting carbon emissions across industries becomes ever more urgent. As the world of work changes, unions must win agreements with employers so that everyone gains – not just those at the top.
There is so much at stake for working families.
Boris Johnson says he has been ‘loaned’ blue collar votes - and that he will have to earn their trust. He will be tested earlier than he thinks. His party forced working people to pay the price of the global financial crash. Now it’s payback time. The policies that unions champion - stronger rights at work, a ban on zero-hours contracts, action to get wages rising and fair trade deals - are popular, whichever party people voted for and in every part of the country.
In 2020 the trade union movement will hold Boris Johnson’s feet to the fire on his promises to invest in schools and hospitals, get real wages rising and deliver stronger rights at work. We will resist his attacks on the right to strike and on the very organisations that help people get a better deal at work – unions.
We will fight to make sure that the UK’s Brexit trade deals protect labour standards and good jobs – and to stop Donald Trump getting his hands on our NHS.
And we will stand against the far right, and their attempts to divide workers. Whatever our background, race or religion, unions will always stick up for working families. On the frontline are our legion of elected workplace reps. In 2020, we’ll be by their side, helping them break down prejudice and racism, and build respect and tolerance.
What working people need now is for every job to become a decent job. Good work gives people dignity and control. We should all be able to feel proud of earning a fair wage for hard day’s work. We need a fair share of the gains as productivity rises, and a real voice in how change happens.
As we face the challenges of the 2020s, all parts of the labour and trade union movement must pull together. We must be a broad church - and a bigger one too. Unions’ first duty is to win a fair deal for working people. But to do that we must rebuild our numbers - fast.
My message to the labour movement for the year ahead is this: now is not the time for self-pity or recriminations. Our job is to fight for working people, not against each other. We need to learn the lessons of the 2019 election and listen to the working-class communities we exist to serve. We need to show humility, reflect – and then pick ourselves up and prepare for the battles ahead.
Trade unions are the first resort and the last line of protection for working people. Union workplaces are safer, pay more and treat people better. In 2020, the TUC and the whole trade union movement will step up our efforts to making sure many more working people can benefit from the protection, support and solidarity of a union workplace.
Union membership has been growing slowly – but in 2020 we will up our game. That means making the case for unions in all sorts of workplaces. It means transforming ourselves to meet the expectations of today’s workers. It means getting concrete wins on wages and fairness in places where we are already strong – and using those successes to persuade working people that change is possible, and that workers don’t have to just put up with whatever the government or the boss throws at them.
Workplace by workplace, we can bring the benefit of unions to today’s working class.
And in all we do, we’ll keep working for a prosperous and fair country where people with diverse backgrounds and differing views can work together to achieve the things we all want: a decent life for ourselves and our families, for our workmates and our neighbours.
I wish you and your loved ones good health, happiness and success in 2020 and always.
Frances O’Grady’s New Year message