We need better employment rights!
Over recent decades, the power imbalance between employers and employees has been increasingly and deliberately skewed in employers’ favour. We have seen successive Acts that restricted workers’ rights, increased legal barriers to trade unions taking action, and cut Legal Aid to limit employees’ access to justice. We have also seen stagnancy in real wages, increasing job insecurity, and widened use of zero hours’ contracts and bogus self-employment (such as Uber claiming their taxi drivers were self-employed, the subject of high-profile legal challenges).
In this context, working class people are often left moving between underpaid, undervalued and insecure work, having to supplement their income with inadequate working tax credits or benefits, and struggling to reach higher incomes without forking out large sums for further study or professional qualifications – from their own pocket or by taking out expensive credit. This is particularly intense for workers who suffer any kind of discrimination, including women, people with disabilities, migrants, BAME communities and LGBT people. Across sectors, there is still frequently pay disparity for those working in comparable jobs due to historic and present-day discrimination, even setting aside harassment and bullying along these lines.
In June 2021, research found that around a fifth of UK adults had less than £100 in savings and people in the UK owed £1,742.7 billion, leaving workers under financial pressure to cope with stressful or unpleasant conditions at work. Unsurprisingly in this climate, workers’ health suffers: mental-health related absence is the most common cause of long-term sickness absence in UK workplaces. Trade union membership has been rising in the last few years, but only after decades of decline, as well as legislative restrictions on their power (e.g. the Trade Union Act 2016).
GMLC’s Employment Service and Campaigns
In 2021, GMLC set up an Employment Advice service to give people advice about their rights at work and to support litigants in person attempting to navigate the employment tribunal system without representation. However, the package of legal rights on offer to UK employees is minimal, with many rights only starting after 2 years’ service. Even where a claim may be possible to make for lost wages or discrimination, employment tribunals have such a large backlog that it can be years before many cases are heard.
Legal solutions are, therefore, not enough to ensure workers are safe from unfair treatment in work. We need to fight for better pay and working conditions, better employment rights, and better access to justice to enforce them. GMLC strongly encourages all employees to join a trade union to campaign and fight collectively for improvements to conditions. The TUC can help you find the right union for you here.
Affiliate your union branch to GMLC
GMLC works with TUC and union branches across Manchester and the North West to support promote unions, build campaigns, and educate people on their rights. You can affiliate your branch to GMLC here, which will entitle you to:
- Our regular newsletter and information about upcoming events.
- Acknowledgement as an affiliate in our literature for public events, as well as our website and annual reports.
- Invitations to our relevant campaign and development meetings.
We are also keen to develop good working relationships with affiliates to work together on key campaigns.
Some of our employment campaigning so far:
- We produced resources as part of our Covid Survival Guide on the furlough scheme and workers’ rights during the Covid-19 pandemic;
- We have produced resources on Long Covid and employment rights to give workers and trade union reps guidance;
- We have conducted survey research into the effect of Long Covid on people’s working lives and made recommendations on changes to policy and law that would help Long Covid sufferers;
- We have worked with groups such as Care and Support Workers Organise to produce resources for care workers facing dismissal due to the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination;
- We have given free advice clinics with the Bakers Union in Wigan across early 2022;
- We have supported Trades Union Congress branches in their work getting local people into appropriate trade unions.