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General Council Report 2022

TUC Congress 2022
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Respect and a voice at work

2.1 Introduction

This year has seen an intensification of attacks on working people and their unions, from government attacks to the right to strike to the shameful behaviour of employers using fire-and-rehire tactics. There have also been attempts to divide working people through so-called culture wars. The trade union movement has been strong in resisting these attacks, fighting back against fire-and-rehire, and calling for new, stronger rights for workers and their unions.

The TUC has taken forward significant work on equality, continuing the vital work of its Anti-Racism Task Force, which reports at Congress this year, and working to strengthen the rights of women, disabled and LGBT+ workers. And we have made sure to address new threats to workers’ rights, including the use of artificial intelligence in the workplace.

2.2 Defending the right to strike

The past year has seen a concerted attack on union members and collective rights by both the government and some employers. The most blatant of these was the no notice sacking of 800 workers by P&O Ferries.

This amounted to the dismissal of unionised workers on decent collectively bargained wages and their replacement with agency workers on poverty pay. The DP World-owned operator ignored its legal obligations to consult with unions and notify the appropriate authorities. 

Described as ‘fire-and-rehire on steroids’, it was the logical outcome of a system that gives workers little job security. This year there have been fewer high-profile attempts at fire-and-rehire, when workers are told to accept cuts to terms and conditions or reapply for their jobs on these worse terms. But the bully-boy tactic has not disappeared. 

Meanwhile, despite professing opposition to fire-and-rehire, the government has failed to take robust action and even ensured that a private members’ bill that would curtail its use didn’t proceed through parliament. 

In line with composite 7 and resolution 36, the General Council lobbied in support of this bill and has continued throughout the year to campaign for changes that will make it harder for bad bosses to dismiss workers in order to get their way. 

Rather than use these scandals to boost worker protections, the government has attempted to further attack union rights, in particular the right to strike. The General Council led a union campaign against new powers for the certification officer and a levy on unions to fund her activities. 

Meanwhile, measures were tabled in parliament to quadruple to £1m the maximum damages that an employer can seek against an ‘unlawful’ strike. The TUC has warned MPs that, when combined with onerous and complex laws on industrial action, this is a blatant attempt to scare workers from striking. 

The TUC is also leading a campaign against statutory instruments tabled in parliament that will end the ban on employment businesses supplying agency workers to replace those taking industrial action. Such use of agency workers could undermine public safety and inflame disputes.  

As noted in composite 11 and resolution 52, there is a huge risk that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 and changes to the Human Rights Act could lead to more action against unions.  

The TUC submitted a robust consultation response to government proposals to change the Human Rights Act. It will continue to work with civil society groups to oppose the government’s dangerous changes. 

2.3 The Anti-Racism Task Force 

Since 2020, the Anti-Racism Task Force (ARTF) has set out to lead the trade union movement’s renewed campaign against racism at work and in the labour market in line with resolution 45. The ARTF will mark the end of this phase with a presentation of its work and findings at the 2022 TUC Congress.  

The ARTF workstreams were organising, collective bargaining, public policy and unions as employers. Central to the work of the ARTF is the aim to further the work that the trade union movement does on anti-racism both for its staff and its members. Integral to this is affiliates’ engagement with Black members and senior activists to enable unions to formulate action plans that result in substantive change.  

Task Force workstreams 

Collective bargaining: This workstream has delivered a set of roundtables that has resulted in recommendations for the trade union movement on a strategic approach to race litigation cases. We have also explored representation in the workplace, and methods for unions to collectivise the experiences of individual race cases, in order to organise and bargain. The TUC has also delivered collective bargaining and ethnicity monitoring videos, guides and webinars for trade union reps.  

Organising: The TUC regions and nations held taster sessions listening to the experiences of Black reps and activists on their training needs. The TUC has launched a model Black Education and Leadership programme in the south-west of England. The workstream has launched a comprehensive report into TUC regional equality and Black structures. Additionally, the workstream held a series of public events on trade unions' role in organising, membership and recruitment of Black workers.  

Public policy: The TUC launched a report on racism in the labour market, proposing recommendations for employers and government in improving the working conditions of Black workers. The workstream played an important part in the TUC’s consultation on the terms of reference for the Covid Public Inquiry, centring on the experiences of Black workers during the pandemic. The workstream investigated building race-class solidarity through framing and messaging research conducted by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) thinktank. The taskforce has convened its first Anti-Racism Network, made up of civil society organisations working on policy and campaigns on race.  

Unions as employers: The workstream conducted a trade union-wide recruitment, retention, training and progression survey and convened a network of HR staff from trade unions to build on sharing best practices and resources. We also commissioned a qualitative piece of research investigating the experiences of Black staff working for trade unions.  


As part of its work, the ARTF will publish a trade union anti-racism manifesto, which will present the trade union movement's shared commitments to racial justice, setting out measurable actions that trade unions are committed to delivering to progress racial justice for Black members, activists and employees in the trade union movement. 

The plan will set out future commitments for the TUC to ensure a legacy for the work of the Task Force. An Implementation and Oversight Group will be established after Congress 2022. This group will be responsible for working with the Race Relations Committee and the General Council to oversee and monitor the implementation of recommendations from the Task Force. 

2.4 Race equality 

The TUC Race Relations Committee worked on various race equality issues, prioritising its efforts to improve the organisation and recruitment of Black workers and supporting the work of the ARTF with resolution 45 in tackling structural and systemic racism that black workers face. The Race Relations Committee and TUC continued the work to highlight the problem of racism in the UK, including online abuse, in line with composite 8, by supporting the Stand Up to Racism march and rally commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on 19 March 2021. 

In line with resolution 45, the TUC Race Relations Committee and the TUC have continued to campaign for the introduction of mandatory pay monitoring. The TUC, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to the government, calling on it to introduce pay gap reporting. The TUC also gave evidence to a special Women and Equalities Committee, which subsequently called on government to introduce legislation. 

The Race Relations Committee and the TUC have continued to campaign for a public inquiry into the unnecessary deaths of Black workers in the pandemic in line with composite 10. The Race Relations committee is working with the TUC on a project to educate union members about the intersection of race and health and safety. The project aims to encourage more Black workers to become health and safety reps and campaign for ethnic data to be collected in work-related injury reporting. 

The TUC and the Race Relations Committee have continued campaigning against the hostile environment. The TUC and other race equality organisations continue to call for a public inquiry and campaign for a proper Windrush compensation scheme that delivers reparatory justice for those who suffered because of the hostile environment policy. The Race Relations Committee continues to support campaigns against deportations and is working with asylum organisations to oppose the government's policy on deportations to Rwanda. 

2.5 Women 

Having been at the sharp end and on the frontline during the pandemic, women now face further disadvantage as the cost-of-living crisis escalates. We risk turning back the clock on the progress women have long fought for. Low-paid and insecure work, women doing the majority of both paid and unpaid care work, women facing discrimination in the workplace through a lack of flexible working, a lack of gender-sensitive health and safety in the workplace, and pregnancy and maternity discrimination, compounded for BME women, disabled women, young women, older women and LGBT+ women, all continue to demonstrate that the fight for women’s equality in the workplace is far from over.  

In line with composite 9, the TUC continues to call for mandatory gender pay gap action plans, and wants more work on tackling the gender pensions gap. Removing the £10,000 threshold and lower earnings limit as well as introducing gender pension gaps reporting would all contribute to progress on closing the gap. Flexible working is essential if we are to tackle gender inequality and we continue to campaign for a day one right to flexible working and an advertising duty.  

The TUC called on the government to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty and conduct Equality Impact Assessments in line with resolution 48. And we need a new deal for the childcare sector, both in terms of pay and conditions for workers as well as universal, free and flexible, high-quality childcare.  

In line with resolutions 47 and 9 the TUC got the HSE to change its guidance about risk assessments for pregnant women and new mothers. But we know women continue to face discrimination in the workplace, including issues around the menopause, menstruation, fertility, endometriosis, pregnancy loss and a lack of support when returning to work for breastfeeding mothers. We continue to work with affiliates to develop model polices, education and awareness of these issues and lobby government and institutions for updated guidance, best practice and, where needed, legislative change. 

Having won the duty to tackle and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, the TUC will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure this legislation is as robust, resourced, and impactful as possible.

Within our own movement we will continue to support affiliates to tackle and prevent sexual harassment and the cultures that enable it in line with resolution 46. And we will continue to challenge the rollback of women’s rights across the globe and tackle the increasing use of misogyny by the far right. 

2.6 LGBT+ workers 

LGBT+ workers are facing an increasingly hostile environment in the UK. The government and right-wing media are using LGBT+ workers’ rights, and especially trans rights, as part of a deliberate culture war, with the goal of splitting working people. 
Anti-trans groups seek to undermine progress on equality and inclusion in the workplace – progress that was hard won by trade unions. The current moral panic around trans rights echoes the panic around gay and lesbian identities in the 1980s, epitomised by Section 28 legislation. 
A TUC-commissioned poll of HR managers exposed how many employers have failed to introduce policies to support LGBT staff. One in five (21 per cent) workplaces told the TUC they do not have any policies in place at all to support their LGBT+ staff at work. Only half (51 per cent) of managers surveyed told the TUC they have a policy prohibiting discrimination, bullying and harassment against LGBT+ workers in their workplace. Less than half (47 per cent) said they have a clear reporting route for workers to raise concerns about discrimination, bullying and harassment against LGBT+ workers – even though one in seven (15 per cent) managers had responded to bullying, harassment or discrimination against one or more LGBT+ workers. 

The TUC is calling for government to consult with unions on a strategy to make sure workplaces are safe for all LGBT+ people. We are also calling for employers to ensure LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace through introducing inclusive policies and practices and in line with resolution 49 fighting the far and radical right. 

2.7 Disabled workers  

Disabled people were hit hard by Covid-19, and the pandemic also caused enormous mental distress. There are now two million people in the UK with long Covid and a TUC survey of those experiencing it showed over half had experienced discrimination or disadvantage as a result.  

Disabled people are also facing a huge cost-of-living crisis, with two in five disabled workers pushed into financial hardship during the pandemic. Disabled workers were also twice as likely to have had to visit a food bank than non-disabled workers. While disabled people often face higher household costs than average, they earn on average £3,500 less a year – so effectively work for free for 52 days of the year. 

The TUC is calling for government to close the disability pay and employment gaps by 2024. Government should enact a statutory requirement for employers to report their disability pay gaps and employment rates with action plans and regular monitoring. 

We are also calling on government to ensure fair access for disabled workers to request reasonable adjustments, without being discriminated against for doing so. Employers should face a substantial penalty for non-compliance.  

Government should also ensure stronger rights for people with long Covid, reform Access to Work so that it is sufficiently funded and available to disabled jobseekers, and scrap Work Capability Assessments.  

2.8 Dealing with artificial intelligence and technology at work  

The TUC AI working group meets around every three months, works on TUC reports on AI and contributes to external projects. Members of the group include representatives from 15 affiliate unions, the ETUC, ITUC, ETUI, TUAC and Uni Europa. 

In December 2021, the TUC published guidance for unions on AI, When AI is the Boss, and an accompanying reps-led webinar. We also commissioned Britain Thinks polling on surveillance and technology.  

The TUC has been campaigning for greater transparency in the use of technology and more accountability for technology providers. This is necessary both to ensure workers are treated fairly in the workplace and, as set out in resolution 38, to stamp out the disinformation and fake news that undermine trust in journalism and increase hostility towards journalists.  

The TUC contributed to advisory boards working on new guidance on AI at work, led by the OECD, CIPD, IFOW and the ICO. We responded to government consultations on data reform and the impact of AI on intellectual property rights. We also responded to the UN Special Rapporteur for disabled people's call for evidence on AI, and the DRCF's call for input on algorithms in June 2022. 

We have continued to meet with the EHRC, the ICO, the CDEI, DCMS, BEIS and the DTI, influencing with our AI manifesto. This includes a proposal for a right to disconnect and we called for this in our campaigning work on the Employment Bill, progressing resolution 39. 

The TUC has also contributed to internationally led work on AI, including taking part in the ETUC AI taskforce and the ETUC standardisation committee. 

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