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Welcome to In ToUCh e-bulletin from the TUC, the bite-size round up of our news and views.
This issue features the latest on Britain's escalating jobs crisis, an update on public sector pensions and the TUC response to plans to charge workers a fee to take claims to employment tribunals.
Let us know what you think about the issues reported here by emailing [email protected].
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Jobless at Christmas again
The scale of Britain's deepening jobs crisis was revealed in a TUC study published in late December showing that nearly 300,000 people were spending their second successive Christmas out of work.
The number of claimants who have been out of work for at least a year has increased by 35,000 over the course of 2011 according to the analysis of official statistics, while the number of long-term claimants over the Christmas period has more than doubled from 122,000 in 2007 to 279,000 today.
Full details @
No private sector panacea
The latest unemployment figures also show that the public sector is losing jobs 12 times faster than the private sector is creating them.
The top three unemployment blackspots in Britain are Clackmannanshire, where there are 31 people chasing every vacancy; West Dumbartonshire, where the figure is 26; and Hartlepool, where it is 24.
Ahead of the publication of the labour market figures, union research showed that if they became unemployed, low-paid workers such as cleaners, catering assistants and machine operators were more likely than their higher paid counterparts to be on the dole for more than six months.
More on this story @
More on situation for low-paid workers @
With the jobs crisis intensifying, the TUC has launched an 'economy tracker' to monitor how unemployment, job vacancies, involuntary part-time work, wages and a host of other economic variables have fared since the recession.
Try out the new tracker @
Unions and the Lawrence campaign
The recent conviction of two men for the murder of Stephen Lawrence represented an important moment in the campaign for justice in which unions have played a prominent role.
As Neville Lawrence acknowledged when he addressed the TUC Congress in 1998, local trade unionists were among the few groups that offered help when the Lawrence family needed it most.
The TUC and unions have continued to support the campaign and the family over the past 18 years, with unions helping fund the 1994 private prosecution that kept the case in the public eye and led to the official inquiry that identified the scale of institutional racism in British public life.
During the course of the campaign the TUC also established its own task force to look at how unions could help tackle institutionalised racism and as a result all TUC unions are required to include a commitment to equality in their rules.
Pensions marathon runs on
A further meeting of the TUC's Public Sector Liaison Group will take place later this week to discuss the next steps in the long-running dispute to secure pensions justice for public sector workers.
The run up to Christmas saw the TUC seeking to facilitate an overall settlement to the dispute that was fair and just - reflecting unions' diverse concerns about the impact of the government's 'reforms'.
This followed separate discussions covering the four main schemes for civil servants, local government workers, teachers and NHS staff.
Further details @
What price justice for poor workers?
The Government's announcement in mid December that it intends to charge workers a fee to take claims to employment tribunals was condemned by the TUC.
'Employment tribunals are a key way of enabling workers to enforce their rights,' said TUC general secretary Brendan Barber. 'Government proposals to introduce a fee to lodge an initial claim - and then possibly a further charge for a full hearing - will effectively prevent the poorest and most vulnerable workers from ever being able to get justice.'
Full TUC reaction @
Health and safety myths dismissed
Downing Street claims early this month that UK businesses are in a 'stranglehold' of health and safety 'red tape' were evidence of how out of touch with the reality of working life Number 10 is, the TUC said in response.
The government seemed 'hell bent' on trying to stop workers injured by their employer's negligence being able to claim compensation, the TUC said, adding that there are two million people in the UK who have an illness or injury caused by their work.
Read the TUC response in full @
Overtime but under pressure
The total amount of paid overtime in the UK has declined by a quarter since its pre-recession peak in 2007, according a TUC analysis of official figures published just before Christmas.
Meanwhile, British business continues to benefit to the tune of £29 billion from unpaid overtime each year, according to figures published by the Office for National Statistics. The two billion hours of unpaid overtime worked last year would be enough to create over a million extra full-time jobs, the TUC said.
If workers who regularly put in unpaid overtime worked all their hours from the start of the year, the first day they would get paid would be Friday 24 February. The TUC has again named this Work Your Hour Proper Hours Day and will be marking the occasion with appropriate events.
Paid overtime declines @
Scourge of unpaid overtime @
Unpaid overtime equals a million extra jobs @
Murphy is UCATT general secretary
Steve Murphy has been elected general secretary of UCATT. He succeeds George Guy, who has been acting general secretary for the past few months, and took up his new post on January 9. Steve was previously the union's regional secretary for Yorkshire.
More on this @
The TUC Disability Conference and Committee have been re-named as the Disabled Workers Conference and Committee. The change reflects the TUC support for the social model of disability.
More on the TUC's work for disabled workers @
A poll conducted for the Fabian Society with TUC support last month showed widespread dissatisfaction with the way the economy is currently working.
Seven out of ten of those asked thought the gap between rich and poor was too wide, and eight out of ten thought that companies should be willing to forgo profits to meet wider responsibilities.
Further information @
Day of action for railways
A National Day of Action bringing together rail unions and passenger groups to fight proposals to cut staffing and services on Britain's rail network received strong support from the TUC last month.
Held on 15 December, the event drew attention to the proposals in the McNulty Review, which could see the closure of half the ticket offices in the country, cuts to staff on trains, reductions in renewals and maintenance, and longer franchises that offer train operating companies greater freedom to cut unprofitable services.
Find out more @
Thameslink questions raised
A Transport Select Committee Report published in December on the handling of the award of the Thameslink contract vindicated many of the concerns that trade unions have raised repeatedly over the past 18 months, the TUC said.
The report showed that the Thameslink procurement process had been flawed throughout, confirming that the UK-based manufacturer Bombardier 'never had a chance'.
Further information @
Banking in the spotlight
Three leadings experts on the banking industry are to take part in a TUC seminar looking at how banks can work better for the real economy.
Professor Richard Werner of Southampton University; Dr Adam Posen, an external member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee; and George Magnus, senior economic advisor to UBS, will take part in the 2 February event at Congress House. They will give their views on the reforms needed in light of the Vickers Report, before taking questions from the trade union audience.
Media ownership and regulation
A conference on media ownership and regulation is to be held at Congress House on Saturday 17 March. It arises out of a resolution carried at last year's TUC Congress and will examine the issues that follow Rupert Murdoch's unsuccessful attempt to take complete control of BSkyB and the continuing work of the Leveson Inquiry.
Confirmed speakers include Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary, Tony Burke of Unite, and representatives of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. Frances O'Grady will speak on behalf of the TUC.
Details about the conference will be posted on the TUC website shortly.
Passing the Playfair baton to Rio
A group of Brazilian union leaders visited the TUC last month to share experiences of dealing with major international sporting events in light of London's preparations for this year's Olympic and Paralympic Games and their own work in advance of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
The group, which included leaders of the construction and textile unions as well as international campaigners, visited the Olympic Park and the London Assembly offices as well as discussing UK unions' experiences of dealing with the Olympic bodies.
More on Playfair 2012 @
December's announcement that benefits will be uprated in line with inflation from April 2012 received a qualified welcome from the TUC.
On the positive side, the TUC welcomed the fact that pressures not to raise benefits on the spurious grounds that incomes were falling behind inflation had been resisted. But on the negative side, it again warned of the severe consequences of the Government's cuts to benefits for many working and out-of-work families, alongside the switch from RPI to CPI uprating.
Full story @
New enforcement guidance
A new guide has been published to help raise awareness of basic rights at work and how to enforce them.
Published to coincide with a TUC conference on vulnerable working held in December, the booklet - financed by the Union Modernisation Fund - aims to help union reps and officials secure fairness for some of Britain's most exploited workers.
The TUC believes that at any one time at least 150,000 workers are not being paid the national minimum wage, and that the onset of the recession has led to more workers being cheated out of their basic rights.
Summary details @
Download Enforcing basic workplace rights @
Hands off small pension pots
An announcement by the DWP last month on aspects of the auto-enrolment pension regime received a largely positive response from the TUC.
'We welcome Steve Webb's determination to end short service refunds', said TUC head of campaigns Nigel Stanley. 'These not only undermine the auto-enrolment regime, but come pretty close to any common sense definition of theft'.
Read full response @
A government consultation on tax measures that will be included in the forthcoming Finance Bill has received a positive response from the TUC.
However, while ministers were 'absolutely right' to close down notorious loopholes that allow the super rich to dodge billions in tax, too many legal scams would be left in place. There was a long way to go before the government could justifiably claim to be taking a tough line on tax avoidance, the TUC concluded.
More on this story @
Lily Kerr, head of bargaining and representation for UNISON in Northern Ireland, was among those awarded the MBE in the New Year Honours List.
Hearing workplace voices
A new online resource aimed at capturing the memories and lives of people at work in Britain between 1945 and 1995 is to be launched on 1 February.
Developed by the TUC Library Collections at London Metropolitan University in partnership with the TUC and funded by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust and Heritage Lottery Fund, the resource includes audio and video interviews, images, documents and themed overviews.
More on TUC Library Collections @
Wapping Exhibition back in town
The 'News International: Wapping 25 years on' exhibition, which has travelled the country following its launch last spring and subsequent display at Congress House, will be on show at the Bishopsgate Institute in London from January 9 to February 29.
The exhibition is organised by Unite, the NUJ, Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and the Marx Memorial Library, and features the trade unions' battles against Murdoch starting with his flight from Fleet Street to Wapping in 1986.
More on this @
17 January Seminar on the 'precariat'
20 January TUC discrimination law conference
31 January Local government seminar
1 February Launch of Britain at Work 1945-95
2 February Banking reform seminar
21 February TUC-IDS pay prospects conference
29 February Wapping exhibition closes
14-16 March TUC women's conference
17 March Media ownership conference
24 March TUC young members conference
27-29 April TUC black workers conference
30-31 May TUC disabled workers conference
More info on TUC events @
New this month
Report of Congress 2011 - the full verbatim report of last year's Congress, complete with the text of all the resolutions carried. Cover price £10, from Publications.
Labour market report no. 21 - TUC analysis of employment trends - from Economic and Social Affairs department or @ http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-20413-f0.cfm
Details of TUC publications @
Visit the website of the Working Class Movement Library @ www.wcml.org.uk
Please email [email protected] if you wish to suggest a new link for the TUC website.
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