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Tough times are ahead – and every worker will need their union

Tell your children and grandchildren, your workmates and neighbours, it’s time to join a union, urges TUC leader FRANCES O’GRADY

THIS May Day is a chance to express our gratitude to all the workers who have helped get us through this pandemic.  
  
Every time key workers put on a uniform they’re putting their health on the line for the rest of us.  
 
That’s why allegations of government sleaze are all the more shocking. While underpaid health care heroes risked their lives, ministers’ mates lined their pockets.  
  
Working people deserve better than this — starting with respect and dignity.  
  
As we begin the long road to recovery, there is an opportunity to build back fairer from this crisis. We must grasp it.  
  
Covid-19 has shone a huge spotlight on huge inequalities in our society.  
  
We have seen how much harder the virus has hit black and minority ethnic workers, young people and women.  
  
And how too many in power see the pandemic as an opportunity to divide working-class people and drive down wages and conditions.  
  
Cut-throat tactics like “fire and rehire” at British Airways and British Gas have been met with fierce resistance from unions. 
  
Unions are organising care workers — too often forced to make do on low pay and zero-hours contracts.  
  
TUC analysis published last month revealed that Covid-19 mortality rates are twice as high in insecure jobs than in other professions.  
  
This horrific statistic is not a tragic accident. It’s the result of serial policy failure.  
  
People in precarious employment have been forced to shoulder more risk during this crisis while often being denied access to decent sick pay.  
  
This is forcing many to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.  
  
This can’t go on. Insecure work is bad for workers and it’s bad for public health.   
  
But together we can fix this.  
  
The overwhelming majority of working people back our calls for higher labour standards.  
  
TUC polling published this week shows that more than eight in 10 (84 per cent) of working people want all workers to have the same basic rights.    
  
And a similar number want big companies to be held responsible for all staff in their supply chain — giving workers the right to take action on unpaid wages, unpaid holiday pay or unpaid sick pay against the commissioning company or buyer as well as their immediate employer.    
  
There is also massive support for banning zero-hours contracts and for making it compulsory to give workers proper notice and compensation for shifts.  
  
Stronger workers’ rights must be a central test of a fair recovery. But we don’t have to wait for a change in the law. We can organise and use our collective bargaining power now.  
  
We demand a new deal for working people, good jobs for everyone, decent pay and a strong safety net.  
  
Tough times are still ahead and that’s when everyone needs a union.   
  
So, tell your children and grandchildren, your workmates and neighbours, it’s time to join a union.  
  
This year we can’t all be together on May Day, so I send greetings from the TUC to working people across the world.

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