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“I want to build a stronger more diverse trade union movement”

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I want my time leading the TUC to focus on one thing: making the trade union movement bigger, stronger and more diverse. That’s how we win for more workers.
Paul Nowak

I started my working career stacking the warehouse shelves in Asda. Later on, I worked as a hotel porter, and in a call centre. I know the difference being in a union can make – and that’s why, as the TUC’s new General Secretary, my focus will always be on making sure the UK’s trade unions are growing.

The current wave of strike action has one cause: the Tories’ failure to get wages growing across the economy. Workers are on course for two decades of lost pay - the longest squeeze on earnings in modern history.

Working people have had enough. They are tired of their standard of living falling year after year.

Nurses, paramedics, rail staff, posties and other key workers have been forced into taking action to defend their livelihoods and the services they provide.

Nobody takes the decision to go on strike lightly. But this is a problem of the government’s own making. Twelve years of pay cuts have left workers with no choice. And that’s why they are out on strike – with massive public support.

And rather than sitting down with unions to negotiate a resolution, ministers seem more interested in escalating disputes.

The UK already has the most restrictive trade union laws in western Europe – but ministers are set to undermine the right to strike even more. That will tilt the balance of power even further towards bad bosses and make it harder for working people to win better pay and conditions.

Have no doubt: I will lead the union movement in opposing further restrictions on the right to strike – just as we will oppose further attacks on any rights at work, including those rights that came from the EU.

But I don’t want us to spend our time just fighting bad laws – I want the trade union movement to set out a positive vision for Britain. Because we know it doesn’t have to be like this. For too long the UK has been trapped in a vicious cycle of stagnant growth, stagnant investment and stagnant wages. Now it’s time for a proper long-term economic plan that rewards work not wealth.

Unions have the answers. We should target low-pay industries, raising pay and standards and driving out rogue operators with sector-wide fair pay agreements. And ministers, unions and employers should work together on a proper industrial strategy, delivering good green jobs, training and skills across the country.

Working people deserve a seat at the tables of power – and it’s the job of unions to get them there. That’s why, when I’m asked, I always say that my first priority is building a stronger, bigger and more diverse trade union movement.

Unions must reflect the modern multiethnic working class of the UK in 2023, promoting women and Black leaders and fighting racism and discrimination.

Unions have to grow, to represent more workers and get more workplaces covered by collective bargaining. That’s how we raise wages, improve conditions and cut inequality. It’s how we stop outrages like P&O sacking hundreds of workers on the spot, with impunity.

And unions have to be stronger and more confident. That’s how we win the argument for a growing, redistributive economy, a £15 per hour minimum wage, and a ban on zero hours contracts.

The solidarity and power of a stronger, growing and more diverse trade union movement is how we will win. It is how we turn the tide on cuts, casualisation and two decades of standstill wages. And it is how we deliver what working people are asking for – a fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage.

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