The referendum campaign gave a voice to communities who feel left behind by globalisation, deindustrialisation and the pace of change. They demanded control back in their lives. We cannot stop globalisation, but we can demand that politicians shape it to work for working people, their families and communities.
In many of those communities – often, but not always, outside London and the southeast – good skilled, unionised jobs that pay enough to raise a family have gone. De industrialisation and the hollowing out of local labour markets has been decades in the making, and has only got worse since the financial crash in 2008. The average wage is still £40 per week lower than it was before the crisis. During the referendum campaign, many voters cited the pressure that they feel uncontrolled immigration has put on wages (especially in some industries), on housing and on public services. The trade union movement is clear: blame for under investment in public services and an economy where wages are stagnant and good jobs scarce lies with government policy.
Trade unionists are the natural spokespeople for these communities – and it is vital that we acknowledge their concerns, renew the ties that bind us and together demand accountability from a political and business class that for too long has failed them.
Standing up for left behind communities requires a dual approach. Firstly, the TUC will relaunch our campaign for practical solutions to deal with pressures caused by migration. We will campaign to make sure that cash gets to areas of high pressure on public services through a new migration impacts fund. We will redouble our efforts to ensure that bad bosses can’t use migrant labour to undercut local workers, by calling for action on poor employment practices and bogus self-employment, demanding equal pay for workers doing the same job in the same company and extending sector wide collective bargaining to support the aspirations of all workers for a secure job.
The TUC will lead the trade union movement in reasserting British trade union values: hard work, respect for one another, an acceptance of difference, a profound opposition to racism and extremism. Trade unions have always been a bridge between communities and a support for new arrivals – and we are now needed to play that role more than ever. And, once again, we will play our historic role in helping working people fulfil their aspirations: we will help more workers than ever before learn English, so they can play a full part in the life of their communities and in their workplaces, and we will push for the government to restore ESOL funding.
Secondly, the TUC will demand that the government set up a proper industrial strategy to bring back pride, good jobs and opportunities across the country, and revitalise manufacturing. Young people should have options to build a life the communities they grew up in – rather than having to move far from home to find work or be stuck with a life of insecurity and low quality jobs. This means a proper regional policy built to deliver power, investment, strong public services and economic growth to towns and cities around the UK, increasing access to skills and decent work. And we will defend fiercely those good jobs that remain – not least our vital steel industry, and those industries threatened by the UK vote to leave the EU. We will make the case for trade agreements that create wealth and distribute it fairly, opposing those deals which would undermine good jobs and good wages.