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STUC Conference ’21 Workers' rights should be treated as a health issue

Trade union representatives and employment rights experts speak against ‘corporate offensive against our rights’ at Star's fringe event

WORKERS’ rights must be treated as a public health issue due to the acceleration of insecure work across Britain, socialists said ahead of this week’s STUC Congress. 

Speaking at the Morning Star’s fringe event on Sunday night, trade union representatives and employment rights experts said that workers in a number of sectors have been taken advantage of throughout the pandemic, describing bosses’ behaviour as a “corporate offensive against our rights.”

But union organisers were able to giving examples of action taken to protect members over the past year during the meeting, held in conjunction with the Institute of Employment Rights (IER), which focused on Covid-19, the law and workers’ rights. 

Representatives from Unite, GMB, Unite Hospitality and the IER took part in the discussion, chaired by RMT political officer Phil McGarry. 

GMB organiser Hazel Nolan, who has been involved in the ongoing dispute with British Gas, said the coronavirus pandemic has brought opportunities for the trade union movement. 

She highlighted the work her union has done tackling the “extremely brutal” “fire-and-rehire” policy  — a widespread tactic throughout the crisis — forcing gas workers across Britain to carry out 43 days of strikes in recent months. 

She said that there are a number of lessons to be taken from this, including the reasons for strike action and what is important to workers across Britain. 

Unite Hospitality’s Bryan Simpson said the pandemic has been “cataclysmic” for those in the hospitality industry, particularly with the “inadequate and delayed” government intervention, which has since cost jobs.

And Morning Star editor Ben Chacko said that the battle for workers’ rights is one that the Star is championing, which showed the importance of supporting the newspaper. 

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