Issue date
11 Feb 2019

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak will speak at an event at the University of Birmingham this evening (Monday) to launch a special issue of the journal Employee Relations, which looks back on 150 years of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Experts on industrial relations will join Mr Nowak to discuss how reduced trade union rights have led to the rise in wage inequality and weak productivity growth. And they will consider new ideas to improve labour relations with benefits for working people and the UK economy.

Paul Nowak said: “In our 150 years the TUC has shown that trade unions can win major improvements to workers’ lives. We’ve won shorter working weeks, paid holidays, the minimum wage, maternity rights and much more.

“But in recent years, government has interviewed to curtail the freedoms working people have to organise and negotiate jointly through trade unions. It has upset the fair balance of power between workers and employers, leading to lower wages and insecure jobs like zero-hour contracts.

“Working people need their freedoms back. They need stronger collective bargaining rights to help reverse the pay slump. And they need rights to negotiate how new technologies like AI and automation are introduced, so working people share the benefits.”

Dr Andy Hodder, from Birmingham Business School at the University of Birmingham, said: “This special issue of Employee Relations considers how unions can build on their historic achievements to help workers with the future challenges they face. It brings together senior trade unionists and leading industrial relations academics to consider the big issues for working people.

“We look at how technologies like artificial intelligence and automation will disrupt the world of work. We consider how collective bargaining, stronger equality protections and improvements to employment rules could improve the lives of workers. We also reflect on how unions can embed organising into their structures to bring the benefits of collective action to more workers.”

Heart Unions week

The event takes place at the start of the TUC’s fourth Heart Unions Week (Monday 11 February to Sunday 17 February 2019), which is an opportunity to celebrate the work unions do in workplaces across England and Wales. This year the week will focus on zero-hour contracts, with union leaders pledging to stamp out the use of ZHCs in workplaces where they have recognition.

Editors note

- Details of the event: Online registration for the event, and details of the speakers, can be found here: www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/business/events/2019/01/the-future-of-work-and-the-future-of-unions.aspx

- Special edition of Employee Relations: The special edition of Employee Relations will be published by Emerald Publishing and will be available for free online for the first month of its publication: www.emeraldinsight.com/toc/er/41/2

- About Employee Relations: Employee Relations is a leading international academic journal publishing authoritative, refereed papers by the world’s leading thinkers on HR, employment and industrial relations. More information is here: http://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/er.htm

- Heart Unions Week: for more information on activities taking place for Heart Unions Week, go to: www.tuc.org.uk/national/heartunions-week

- Ban zero-hours contracts petition: As part of Heart Unions Week, the TUC is calling for a ban on zero-hours contracts. The petition is here: www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/ban-zero-hours-contracts-3

- TUC150: The TUC reached its first 150 years and held its 150th Congress in 2018. More information on the TUC’s history and 150th anniversary is here: https://tuc150.tuc.org.uk/about-tuc-150/

- About the Trades Union Congress (TUC): The TUC exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 49 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

Ban zero-hours contracts Too many workers are being denied job security, sick pay and holiday pay - and insecure work is out of control.