Union bosses today boasted ‘the state is back’ as they demanded a public sector pay rise and called for a ‘National Recovery Council’ to be set up to guide Britain’s post-coronavirus future.
The TUC is calling for a dramatic shake up of the way the UK does business after the outbreak, urging the Government to ban zero hours contracts and give people employment guarantees.
The union’s general secretary Frances O’Grady believes Britain must show the same level of unity as it did after the Second World War in order to heal society and the economy in the coming years.
Citing the last decade of austerity she warned that working people cannot be made to ‘pay the price again’.
And in a sign that union chiefs have been emboldened by the current outbreak, Ms O’Grady proclaimed: ‘Unions are back… but the state is back too.’
The demand for a public sector pay rise is likely to prove particularly controversial given that many private sector workers have recently suffered pay cuts due to coronavirus disruption while many others have been made redundant.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady today said ‘unions are back… but the state is back too’ as she called for a post-coronavirus shake up of the economy
Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street on May 14, has faced opposition from unions over his plans to ease the nation’s coronavirus lockdown
The TUC, which has 5.5 million members and represents 48 unions across England and Wales, is calling on ministers to agree to set up a ‘National Recovery Council’.
It argues this body, made up of representatives from the Government, unions and employers, would be able to guide Britain towards a ‘greener and fairer economy’.
Ms O’Grady will launch a report alongside Labour shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds setting out the union’s demands.
The TUC believes the NRC would be an act of unity similar to that shown in the wake of the Second World War, according to The Guardian.
She told the newspaper: ‘We’ve got to get that safety net strung again, we’ve got to invest in our public services, which may have to build resilience for a long time.’
She added: ‘Unions are back… but the state is back too.’
The TUC will argue in the report that social investment in the post-conflict decade created growth of 3.3 per cent.
But in the 10 years of austerity after the financial crash in 2008 it said growth was just 1.9 per cent.
Ms O’Grady said working people could not be expected to carry an unfair economic burden in coming years amid reports that the Government could move to hike taxes to pay for the damage done by the pandemic.
She said: ‘I think there is a real sense that this has got to be a people’s effort.
‘It can’t just be left to employers or politicians, we’ve got to step up too.’
The report, issued on behalf of TUC’s 5.5 million members, will demand an increase in the minimum wage to £10 an hour as part of a rebuilding of Britain’s business model.
It will also call for a pay rise in the public sector, a ban on zero-hours contracts and a scheme to guarantee employment.
It is thought the latter would see the unemployed offered a ‘funded individual learning account’ with the money then used to pay for training and acquiring new skills.
The programme would come with the promise of a job at the end of the training.
The TUC is expected to praise the Government for its ‘constructive’ efforts to unite stakeholders in creating its job retention furlough scheme.
Transport unions have blocked a ramping up of some public services, insisting they will not agree to measures which they believe could put the health of their workers at risk
The union will also call for the urgency shown in the response to coronavirus to be applied to tackling climate change.
‘We’ve run out of excuses about creating a carbon-free economy,’ Ms O’Grady said.
The TUC’s intervention comes as unions are at odds with the Government in a number of key areas as ministers look to reopen the UK after lockdown.
Some union bosses are standing in the way of a plan to start the phased reopening of primary schools in England from June 1, citing safety concerns.
Meanwhile, transport unions have been at war with politicians over the ramping up of train, Tube and bus services, insisting they will not agree to any measures they believe could put the health of workers at risk.