SHEFFIELD NEEDS A PAY RISE!
A Happy New Year to all trade unionists and workers and your families – we wish you all a better year for 2021 than the year that’s just gone.
The pandemic in 2020 exposed all the terrible fault lines in our society. We have seen how key workers have been undervalued whilst the rich have got richer. We have seen how BAME workers and their families have been much more exposed to COVID than the rest of society, due entirely to the disadvantages they suffer. We have seen how our NHS, Local Authorities and other vital public services have struggled to deliver following a decade of austerity cuts. We have seen cronyism on an unprecedented scale in the dishing out of lucrative Government contracts to businesses. We have seen a Tory Government that has failed to protect us at every turn, and happily seen workers – and mainly low paid workers – pay the ultimate price of the pandemic and suffer the economic fall-out with their jobs, their income and their health.
Sheffield TUC brought all these issues to the fore in whatever way we could throughout 2020, giving a voice on behalf of the trade unions to the demands for effective local track and trace, safer schools, an extension of furlough, a pay rise for NHS workers and Care workers, and protection against job losses. We supported Black Lives Matter, joined the campaign for Better Buses and for real action against climate change. We have stood up and opposed the £20 cut in Universal Credit next April and called for a proper safety net that protects and supports workers and their families.
2020 did show how important trade unions still are, protecting jobs, helping to make workplaces safe, pressuring the Government. Several unions have reported increases in membership during the year. We are prepared for struggles to come in 2021 as more damage hits our communities and more workers lose their jobs and fall onto hard times with only Universal Credit to support them.
Sheffield TUC will continue to give a voice for workers and their unions in 2021, and provide a resource for support and solidarity in our city. Workers need to know that trade unions are there to protect their interests, to fight for better pay and safety at work, but also for broader issues like justice and fairness, and for a much better response to the pandemic than that given by this terrible Government that has left us with one of the worst COVID death rates and the most damaged economy.
Our Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise campaign, spearheaded by our fantastic Union organiser Rohan Kon, continued to raise all our spirits during 2020 and we look forward to real gains in 2021. Workers in Sheffield’s fast food and hospitality sectors have begun to think and act collectively and score some important victories. Rohan has identified some amazing new workers who are tomorrow’s new generation of trade unionists, most of them young, mostly BAME and many female, all of them spirited and determined.
Whilst we are all much more optimistic about the future thanks to the new vaccinations being rolled out, we know there are some bigger fights we have to be part of. We still have a Government that pays lip service to frontline workers but forces them to accept a pay freeze. Public borrowing in 2020 will be used as an excuse to implement a new round of austerity on our valued public services. In the fifth richest country in the world, our totally inadequate welfare system drives working class families to food banks in ever growing numbers. We will fight every attempt to scapegoat immigrants and asylum seekers and stand up to racism and fascism wherever it raises its ugly head and not let it divert workers from the real causes of our problems.
We won’t just be fighting against everything that’s bad and unfair in our society. We will be fighting for something better – a fairer, brighter and more prosperous world in which wealth is more evenly distributed. That means of course building trade unions again and extending collective bargaining and supporting strike action. We have already joined up with climate action groups to press for real public investment in a Green New Deal which could provide the decent well-paid job we need, eradicate energy poverty, and combat climate change.
There’s lots of good work to be done in 2021 and we hope you join with us in our campaigns and rallies. Hopefully, if COVID restrictions allow, we will all meet again for a fantastic Sheffield May Day rally – for real in 2021!
Martin Mayer Bob Jeffery
On behalf of Sheffield TUC Executive Committee, with thanks to all the delegates and the trade union branches that have affiliated to us.