Heart Unions week, held this year between the 14th and 20th of February, is described by the TUC as “a chance to tell the story about why unions are vital for everyone at work, and encourage people who aren’t yet in a union to join.”
Each year, the event is getting bigger, with trade unions across the UK flooding social media with positive stories about the impact of trade unions and reasons to join. Unions right across the board, from the largest to the smallest, have shared the stories of the reps and members on social media, using the hashtags #HeartUnions and #HeartUnionsWeek.
Many in the Labour movement have used Heart Unions Week to explain the importance of trade unions in our society, and crucially, also, to publicise and discuss the important work that had been done to create a framework to defend and extend worker’s rights, much of which has involved the IER, in its current form a ‘New Deal for Working People’.
Justin Madders MP, Shadow Secretary for Employment Rights, wrote an excellent piece in Labourlist, on why Labour’s New Deal is so important:
“…unions have been subjected to increasingly restrictive rules. The UK has one of the most regulated systems of industrial action in the world, with unions having to comply with complex and often unnecessary legal requirements. These restrictions mean collective bargaining and organising is made more difficult.
The imbalance of power between individual workers and employers means that it is essential that workers can band together to improve their bargaining power. The right of unions to operate effectively in the workplace is vital for achieving fairness, dignity and democracy at work for all.”
Andy McDonald MP, who was instrumental in drawing up the Green Paper, urged supporters to sign up to back the New Deal for Working People, adding:
“It was an honour to lead for the Labour Party on the New Deal for Working People. I am so grateful to our affiliated unions for their superb work & collaboration on a policy programme that will transform the lives of millions of working people, their families & communities.
Achieving “a community in which power, wealth & opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few” is only possible when the political & industrial arms of our movement work as one. The prize is huge, and we can grasp it if we choose to do so.
But the relationship with the unions requires great care & attention. If we get it right, we have a real chance of transforming things for the better. If we don’t, the alternative is continued grotesque inequality & the preservation of vested interests of the rich & powerful.”
Angela Rayner MP, who formally launched the paper at the 2021 Labour Conference, wrote in the Mirror about why joining a union is vital for workers feeling the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis and emphasised the New Deal as a way of achieving better pay, conditions and security:
“It is when we come together that we are strongest and achieve the most. Security at work, prosperity in decent pay, and all workers treated with respect. That is Labour’s New Deal for Working People and the driving mission of the Labour movement.”
Labour Unions, the organisation which acts as the collective voice of the 11 trade unions who are affiliated to the Labour Party, have produced an explainer to the New Deal for Working People, here.
Their director, Helen Pearce, wrote a piece, also in Labourlist, celebrating the trade union link and highlighting the New Deal. In her article, she said:
“Trade unions were founded in the heat of the industrial revolution to fight for better pay and conditions, and unions are organising, campaigning, negotiating and winning for working people across the UK every single day. Want a better deal at work? Join a union. But we also need a government that will deliver for workers: enshrining the rights that workers should be able to rely on, giving unions new rights to help them organise and win for their members, undoing the unfair restrictions on unions taking action to defend their members’ pay and conditions, and putting power back into the hands of working people.”
When the New Deal for Working People announcement was made, back in July last year, it was welcomed by the IER, but with a warning that the “devil will be in the detail”. Keith Ewing, IER President said:
“We welcome the Labour Party’s continued commitment to many of the IER’s Manifesto for Labour Law recommendations, originally adopted by the Party in 2016, including strengthening trade union rights, promoting access to collective bargaining arrangements, day one rights for workers, stronger protections against discrimination and harassment, harnessing the power of public procurement to promote fair workplaces, and a real living wage.
However, the devil will be in the detail. It is vital that sectoral collective bargaining – rather than simply at enterprise level – becomes the focus of this effort. Much modern research has shown that this is the best way to raise pay and conditions at work, as well as resist unscrupulous employers’ attempts to undermine unions. This push should be bolstered through public procurement by including as conditions of public contracts that employers recognise trade unions and adhere to collective agreements.”