Unions must rebuild in the private sector, says TUC

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date: 5 July 2010

embargo: 11.30hrs

Hundreds of union activists and reps will gather at the Stronger Unions conference at TUC HQ in central London today (Monday) to discuss the major organising and recruitment challenges facing unions.

This, the first TUC organising conference since the election, comes in a tough economic climate, with deep spending cuts likely to reduce demand in the economy and lead to mounting job losses in both the public and private sectors.

The conference will focus on the key issues facing unions today - defending members' jobs, pay and pensions, increasing the union presence in workplaces by recruiting new members, campaigning for fairer working practices and helping members with the support and training they need to thrive in their careers.

At the event, union reps will look back at negotiating strategies during the recession, where unions helped to limit the number of job losses despite the sharpest downturn in economic growth for sixty years, as well as look ahead to the conditions they face in the year ahead.

The conference will also examine strategies to give the most vulnerable workers, as well as those working in sectors where unions are rarely recognised, the protection of union membership.

Addressing the conference TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O' Grady said: 'The challenges facing unions today are the toughest we have faced for decades.

'So far, the downturn has hit unionised and non-unionised jobs pretty equally. But unless we re-adjust our strategies, the next round of job losses could hit union membership much harder.

'We've got to address a legal climate that could become even more weighted against working people, with some employers appearing to prefer injunction to negotiation, and business groups calling for unions to jump ever higher hurdles to achieve employer recognition and secure an industrial action ballot.

'Any changes to existing voting requirements would be anti-democratic and if they ever applied to our electoral system, no elected Government in modern history would have ever assumed office.

'We have to be prepared and ready for those who want to demonise trade unionism, demoralise trade unionists and encourage disunity. We need leadership, discipline and unity at every level to counter that.

'As we campaign against socially divisive and economically counter-productive cuts in the public sector - as we defend the jobs, pay and pensions of dedicated public servants who are being made to suffer for the bankers' recession, and defend the services that millions of people rely upon - we must not lose sight of the central organising challenge we face.

'And that, of course, is rebuilding our presence in the private sector.'

Other speakers at the conference include UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis, UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt, Equity General Secretary Christine Payne and Mehdi Hasan, Senior Editor (politics) of The New Statesman.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- Frances O' Grady's speech to the Stronger Unions conference is available from the press office.

- Further information about the TUC's organising work is available at www.strongerunions.org

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

- Congress 2010 will be held at the Manchester Central Convention Complex from Monday
13 September to Thursday 16 September. Free media passes can be obtained by visiting www.tuc.org.uk/congress/tuc-18063-f0.cfm and returning a form. Applications must be in by noon on Monday 6 September. Any received later than that will be processed in Manchester and will cost £50.

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk

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