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Building working class power

We need to take class discrimination seriously, writes FRANCES O’GRADY, general secretary of the TUC, as 2019's Congress closes

GRADUATES with parents in professional jobs are more than twice as likely as working-class graduates to start on a high salary, no matter what degree level they attain. That was the stark finding of research commissioned by the TUC and published during Congress 2019.

Our findings echo research from the government’s own Social Mobility Commission that found that even when people from working-class backgrounds enter professional occupations, they earn on average 17 per cent less than more privileged colleagues.

That’s just not right. And it’s a colossal waste of talent. It’s just one example of how the system is rigged against working-class people.

If you’re from a working-class family the odds are stacked against you. You face barriers because of where you come from, what your parents do, your accent, or which school you went to.  

Britain is still blighted by old-fashioned snobbery, inflated egos and a sense of entitlement.

Just look at Jacob Rees Mogg treating the government front bench like his own living room sofa — when he’s supposed to be there to work and serve.

So how do we start putting things right?

The first answer is, of course, through building trade unionism. Strengthening our own movement, and our ability to negotiate for working people, is key to improving working-class power.

That’s why we have published new proposals to strengthen workers’ power to raise their voice at work and make sure that employers are listening. Collective bargaining is key to addressing the power imbalance that is rife across our workplaces. If we don’t act, we’re at risk of slipping back to Victorian era inequality.

But we also need to look to change the law.

I’m proud that, over the years, this movement campaigned to outlaw discrimination against women, disabled and Black workers, older workers, younger workers and LGBT workers too.

Those rights have made a profound difference to groups that suffer prejudice and discrimination.

And that’s why I think we need new laws to tackle class discrimination too. The government must make discrimination on the basis of class unlawful, like it is for race, sex and disability. There needs to be a legal duty on public bodies to make tackling all forms of inequality a priority. And it needs to be compulsory for employers to report their class pay gaps.

These are common sense and fair proposals that are long overdue. Let’s change the law and stamp out class prejudice once and for all.

The TUC was founded to “advance the general interests of the working classes.” We will keep fighting to achieve that historic mission.

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