This week is Heart Unions week. The campaign, organised by the TUC, is raising awareness of the importance of union membership and doing so under the black cloud of the UK Government’s nasty Trade Union Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament.
With the bill, this Tory Government is attempting to reduce workers’ rights, make it near impossible to strike and ultimately take away workers’ ability to campaign for and achieve better, safer and fairer conditions at work.
Sadly in the 21st century this is more important than ever with big corporations wanting more and more from their workers but increasingly showing an unwillingness to treat them as people, rather than just cogs in the machinery of making profits.
What you may be thinking now is ‘yeah, why should I care? I don’t work in one of them union industries’ and this is exactly why I’m writing this. Neither do I.
All the press about unions is to do with train drivers, steel workers, miners – the sort of traditional industries that are sadly not as prominent in the UK as they once were. But here’s the thing – that’s just perception. Unions matter, or should matter, to all of us. Anyone who works.
Look at the journalist who was told she was being offered redundancy and a payout only to have it taken away and be replaced with an ‘equivalent’ job that wasn’t equivalent at all. Who fights for her? Unions.
What about the waiter working in a restaurant who it turned out wasn’t getting the tips that customers thought they were giving to him, because management was taking a cut. Who fights for him? Unions.
And the workers at big warehouses and call centres who have rules so restrictive and untrusting that they hardly feel like people at all. Who fights for them? Unions.
Even if you don’t think you’ll ever need one, you should join a union. The more people that do, the more the Government will have to sit up and listen. As workers we all want rights and the best way to get them is to fight together, united.
My plea to you this week, when we’re celebrating how much we #heartunions, is to sign up. Think not ‘can I afford to?’ but ‘can I afford not to?’ You never know what’s round the corner, and even the kindest of employers can leave you high and dry if business changes.
Join your union, join in and even if you don’t need help now why not help others? If every union member recruited one more, the unions would have double the cash to fight for people’s rights. Yes, you may feel you’re paying in loads and haven’t got anything out yet, but that’s how it should be. Standing together, shoulder to shoulder.
Finally, if you still think you don’t love unions enough, here’s a clip of the final scenes of Pride, where in an enormous show of solidarity, the National Union of Mineworkers joined forces with LGBT campaigners, stood shoulder to shoulder and worked together to improve peoples’ rights. If you haven’t seen the whole film, I definitely recommend watching it.
You can join any general union, or one that’s relevant to the industry you work in. I’m a member of Unite and the NUJ (which you can join if you’re a PR, you don’t have to be a journalist). Look on the TUC website for more information.