Sheffield Trade Union Council wishes a Happy and Prosperous New Year to all working people – whether in employment or not.
BUT! 2016 is set to be a tough year – the economy is still stagnating under the burden of austerity; wages are still lower in real terms than before the crash of 2007/8 and for many the only work available in on the minimum wage and probably part-time and irregular hours; bogus self-employment; or insecure temporary agency work or the scandal of zero hours contracts. We may have beaten the Tories back on working families’ tax credits, but we know they are coming back for £12B of welfare cuts. Many are suffering already from welfare cuts such as the Bedroom Tax and the number of families using Food Banks is still rising thanks mainly to unfair benefit sanctions.
We would like to echo Frances O’Grady TUC General Secretary in her New Year’s message “Join a Union in 2016!” The evidence is starker than ever: if you are in a union the chances are you will be on better pay and conditions, have more job security and a pension that your employer contributes to than if you are in a workplace where there is no union.
Union density is lower in Britain than in any other country in Europe (apart from Lithuania!) – and barely 25% of workers are covered by a collective agreement (where your wages and conditions are negotiated with the trade union instead of simply allowing the boss to set the rate!)
Of course it’s no accident that union density is so low. It’s been deliberate policy of British Governments for over 30 years to sideline, denigrate and undermine trade unions. Thatcher’s Government introduced vicious anti-union legislation in the 1980′ and 1990’s – and even branded unions “the enemy within”. Tony Blair’s Labour Government refused to repeal that legislation and even tried to distance the Party from the trade union movement.
Now we are seeing the current Tory Government railroading through new legislation in 2016 designed to make strikes very difficult if not impossible to hold. The Government’s Certification officer will have astonishing new powers to intervene in the internal affairs of trade unions, initiate investigations and set fines. It is also designed to hit the union funding of the official opposition party – the Labour Party.
The good news is that – in great part due to the work of trade unions and trade unions councils – the Labour Party has a new leader who supports trade unions and share our vision of a better future for working people. Sheffield Trade Union Council fully supports the direction Jeremy Corbyn wants to take the Labour Party.
We have a tough year ahead with more austerity spending cuts and attacks on our basic rights and freedoms. Workers can make a difference by joining a trade union being part of a broader trade union movement standing up for a better future for working people. It’s time to get orgsnised!
Sheffield Trade Union Council is a focus for that fightback in 2016 and we will be supporting unions who are organising low paid workers and will be campaigning for Sheffield employers to pay the Living Wage to all their employees.
Please join us in that fight
Martin Mayer Bob Jeffery