Featured

Covid-19 crisis: Protect the right to strike!

Already in the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen examples of workers taking industrial action, often to improve workplace safety. Outsourced cleaners, caterers, and porters at Lewisham Hospital walked out to demand the payment unpaid wages. Workers in Lambeth libraries took action to demand the closure of their workplaces. Postal workers in Bridgend struck, after bosses refuse to revise shift patterns and staffing levels to ensure safe distancing in the workplace.

Continue reading “Covid-19 crisis: Protect the right to strike!”
Featured

Resist the Tories’ new anti-strike law!

In his government’s first Queen’s Speech, Boris Johnson has announced that he plans to introduce new laws to restrict strikes. There could be little clearer indication of the class loyalties of his government than this.

Continue reading “Resist the Tories’ new anti-strike law!”

Discussing UK anti-strike laws on Australian community radio

Daniel Randall, a co-organiser of our campaign, was recently invited onto “Stick Together”, a labour-movement-based show on Australian community radio station 3CR, to discuss class struggle on London Underground, and the role of public transport in confronting climate change.

The conversation also covered the UK’s anti-strike laws.

You can listen to the show on the 3CR website here.

Anti-union laws slow down NHS pay fight

A Free Our Unions supporter working in the NHS writes…

Another year, another pay cut.

NHS staff have suffered 10 years of pay cuts and lost about 15% off the value of our pay. We’ve now got over 100,000 vacancies and record high demand. The 3% “rise” this year is a pay cut when adjusted for inflation. A pay cut is bad for us, bad for our patients, and bad for the NHS.

During the first year of the pandemic the richest 171 individuals in the UK took home over £106 billion (around three times the wage bill for the entire NHS). Enough is enough – join the strike movement.

All the unions are now either balloting or consulting on strikes. But because successive governments have shackled workers’ organisations with anti-union laws, we can only have a legal strike if over 50% of union members vote, and if at least 40% of all those balloted vote yes.

Other workers have shown this is possible. Higher education workers, railworkers and others have all got large strike mandates. If we organise and vote then we can join millions of other workers fighting back against this government of the rich.

The following unions are balloting:

Unison is running its second indicative ballot from 3-29 November. If over 45% of members vote UNISON will proceed to a formal postal ballot. If you’re a Unison member, check your email for link to vote, or visit nhspay.org.uk.

GMB is running a formal postal ballot from 10 November to 15 December.

RCN is running its second indicative ballot from 4-30 November. Check your email to vote. Depending on the outcome, a formal ballot may follow.

In Unite, certain branches will launch formal ballots in the new yuear. Contact your branch for more info.

If you’re not in a union, join one today!

It’s so hard for us to take industrial action because the UK has what Tony Blair, in 1996, proudly called “the most restrictive anti-union laws in the Western world”. Since then more restrictions have been put in place.

We need abolition of the anti-trade union laws, which hamstring workers organising and taking action, and their replacement with strong legal workers’ rights. Otherwise we are fighting the challenges of low pay, insecurity and lack of rights with our hands tied behind our backs.

Public (Zoom) meeting, 7pm, Thursday 9 December: How postal workers maintained a tradition of unofficial action

7pm, Thursday 9 December
Log in via Zoom here


The UK’s restrictive anti-strike legislation, which requires unions to ballot members individually, by post, and to give significant notice periods to employers prior to ballots and prior to any action, is consciously designed to render strikes less effective and impactful.

Workers in the postal service have retained a tradition of unofficial, “wildcat” strikes which defy this legislation, enabling them to take swift and effective action, for example in defence of victimised colleagues, which often leads to quick wins.

How was this tradition developed, how has it been maintained, and how could it be spread?

Former postal worker and CWU activist Dave Chapple will lead the discussion.

UCU versus the anti-union laws

By a Cambridge UCU member

The University and College Union (UCU) last week announced the results of two national ballots. Higher Education (HE) sector members were balloted on two disputes: the long-running “USS” pensions issue, and on the “Four Fights”: pay, workload, casualisation, and inequality. Pensions in HE have been systematically attacked over the past decade, so much so that the average USS member is now £240,000 worse off. On pay, HE has seen a 20% real-terms wage cut since 2010, whilst the gender pay gap sits at a staggering 16%. UCU research has consistently found our members averaging 50+ hour working weeks over the 2010s. Last month, UCU reported that one-third of all academics were employed on fixed-term contracts. Thousands of university teaching staff are on zero-hour contracts, and thousands more are in the same situation as me, having no contract at all.

It is therefore no surprise that UCU members voted in their tens of thousands to fight back. 37 branches balloted on the USS pensions dispute now have legal strike mandates, and so too do 54 branches balloted over the Four Fights issues. Given the overlap in which branches were balloted on just one or both of these disputes, there are now about 60 unique branches able to take strike action, and, due to larger branches having higher turnouts, this covers about 60% of our union’s near 130,000 members.

Although there is much to be said about the best tactics to win this dispute, here I want to focus on how anti-trade union legislation has held us back, and why nothing short of the complete repeal of all anti-union laws will be enough to build the fighting trade union we need.

Turnout Thresholds, Sector-wide Action

A well-known anti-union restriction introduced in David Cameron’s 2016 Trade Union (TU) Act is the 50%+ turnout threshold (with a majority in favour of strikes) required to take industrial action in England, Scotland and Wales. The aim of this act was to stop action on a national basis, arising mainly from the 2011/12 public sector strikes that saw nearly a million workers walk out, the most in the UK since 1989. Since the 2016 Act passed, the total number of annual strike days has only crossed the 100,000-mark on one occasion (and then only barely). Clearly the act is working as the Tories had hoped.

In comparison to similarly large (and larger) unions, the UCU has bucked the trend in beating this threshold nationally, doing so in 2017, 2019 and now again in 2021. Nevertheless, this has not allowed tens of thousands of our members to mobilise, instead either requiring them to re-ballot to join others involved in industrial action, or stopping them altogether. Our 2018 strike ballot was beaten outright when we voted on a nationally aggregated basis with a 41% turnout. To put that figure into context, there have been MPs elected to parliament on less than half of this turnout. The turnout threshold is a union-busting, anti-democratic tool that is holding workers back.

One of the ugly ironies of the turnout threshold is how members voting against strikes can result in actions being more likely. This year Manchester University UCU (MUCU) were balloted on both the USS pensions and Four Fights disputes. In the former the Yes/No vote for strike action saw votes split 807/231 on a 49.95% turnout, and the latter a split of 782/269 on a 50.4% turnout. Despite a higher fraction of support, MUCU cannot strike over pensions, being one vote short. Yet, in the Four Fights dispute the extra number of votes cast against strikes resulted in this passing the threshold. The turnout threshold is backwards.

UCU have however shown that national actions can be taken on a ‘disaggregated’ basis (that is branch-by-branch). Whilst this means we still have the power to be disruptive in cities and towns across the UK, less-organised branches have been unfairly left out of disputes which directly affect them. What this has proven though is that action breeds more action: our national turnouts have been increasing every time of asking over the past 4 years, and even more so in branches that have taken action in the past year (e.g., Manchester Met, Liverpool and the Royal College of Arts) or where these have been coupled with a local dispute (e.g. Goldsmiths).

In fact, our total turnout figures have increased so substantially that a debate has now emerged in the UCU following our 2021 ballot. Whilst around 1 in 3 branches beat the threshold individually, both disputes ended with total ballot turnouts of over 50%: had these been balloted together (on a union-wide aggregated basis), every single member in our 154 branches would now have a live strike mandate. This means that sector-wide action is potentially back on the table, and importantly at the dozens of universities that in recent years have been strangled by Cameron’s Act. This is a huge opportunity for them. Where UCU has had little history of building industrial action, our collective power can be used to ensure our members everywhere can take action and build their branches during active struggle. We may even see this tested very soon. If our 6-month strike mandate needs renewing in May – after a powerful first wave of action over Winter and Spring – UCU could win an aggregated strike mandate that encompasses every one of us.

Of course, just because we have shown that we can beat the threshold doesn’t mean we should have to. The exercise of balloting is itself exhausting, and as laid out above, is a rule set by those who want worker self-organisation and the trade union movement crushed. We need to outlaw turnout thresholds.

Workplace Voting, Branch Organising

Part of the difficulty of building turnout is the mechanism of voting; this cannot be done “in” the workplace, and now is entirely managed by postal ballots. Thatcher spent much of the 80s pushing these types of practices on unions for one major reason: it is atomising. Prior to private postal ballots, workers had the chance to meet, discuss, argue and debate strategies for disputes, and whether or not to strike. Atomised workers are less likely to vote, as in many instances aren’t as aware of issues presented to them in industrial disputes, or haven’t discussed this with colleagues. In short, this method has successfully detached union members from acting on their own disputes.

Workplace voting ensured members went to meetings, took part in branch debates and had a stake in building their union’s activist base. Whilst there remain strong reasons for attending union branch meetings, this has resulted for many in one reason less, and contributes to the feeling of powerlessness. Breaking the rules that restrict our right to hold workplace ballots won’t just ensure our members are better equipped with reasons why they might take industrial action, they will organically result in stronger grassroots union organisation too.

The reduction in the democratic power of union branches and members has naturally handed more power to union bureaucracies to set the terms of our disputes. Further, it has shifted branch focuses from developing effective workplace organisation, to instead building “Get out the vote” machinery. Such GOTV operations are very rarely an exercise in building workplace power, given the time-limited nature of ballot periods and the all-too-often yes/no membership canvassing approaches these adopt. In the UCU’s case, this helps to account for our recent uptick in ballot turnouts, however the atomising of members and how we vote has acted as a counter-balance to the kind of rank-and-file mobilising we need in our branches. We need a return to organising that centralises the workplace (irrespective of imposed industrial action balloting methods) that builds collective power at the union’s grassroots.

Solidarity Action, Industrial Unionism

The UCU is not the only union in Higher Education. Our members are predominantly teaching, research and academic-related professional services staff, with Unite, Unison, GMB, IWGB, and UVW representing members that cover everything else needed to run a university. Whilst academics are able to shut down university lectures, talks and research, cleaners, maintenance workers and technicians have the ability to shut down entire buildings, faculties and critical infrastructure (e.g., IT systems); clearly, significant power in Higher Education rests outside of the UCU. This is why building effective leverage in our sector makes cross-union action increasingly necessary.

However, since the Thatcher era, anti-union laws have banned solidarity action, restricting the other campus unions from legally joining the UCU dispute. Banning solidarity action has helped to erode class consciousness. It means that upcoming UCU strikes can only get limited support from workers organised in other trade unions. It has given union bureaucracies more power to discourage cross-union action that could see greater power leveraged at the grassroots.

There are ways to resist this. No laws stop joint union meetings, and joint organising committees, nothing stops us building leverage with workplace-wide actions “short of” striking (working to rule, work “slow-downs”, refusing to take-on certain jobs). Some of these are labour movement traditions applied successfully during the 70s and 80s. They need bringing back now.

Where cross-union coordination is not yet happening, organising on a sector (or “industrial”) basis will build far greater power than unions only organising their own members. If we all have the same boss and management, and we’re fighting off the same types of attack, it is only logical that we coordinate joint union action in response. Indeed, cross-union campus organising will be essential to maximise disruption during the UCU strikes, and build necessary industrial links for the immediate and long-term future.

There is more to say about the necessity for an industrial union for all higher education workers – the alignment of all workers into one union representing anyone working in our sector – but I’ll call that beyond the scope of this article. Certainly, in the near-term linking the UCU’s disputes and demands with other Higher Education unions will ultimately help all of us win and plant the seeds from which such a realignment can grow.

For an effective right to strike and organise: abolish every anti-union law

Universities are now increasingly becoming some of the largest employers in many cities and towns across the UK. Coupled with the recent increases in union activism within HE, universities present an immense terrain to wage class struggle on the scale needed to systematically roll back all the anti-union laws. Any successful fight to repeal these will involve the UCU and people who work on university campuses.

However, our union is only formally opposed to the 2016 TU Act. Welcome as its abolition would be, this is far from sufficient for us to rebuild the labour movement and give workers across the UK a rejuvenated and effective right to strike and organise.

UCU activists should mobilise for our next Congress to extend our union’s position to oppose and campaign to end all anti-union laws. Anything less is less than we deserve.

Empower the Unions leaflet for use on climate protests

In advance of mobilisations across the UK this Saturday to demand radical climate action, we’ve turned our recent joint statement with Earth Strike: Empower the Unions into an A5 leaflet for distribution at protests.

Please feel free to print off some copies for actions in your local area!

For a national demo against anti-union laws!

In recent months, three major labour movement bodies – the TUC Congress, Unite’s policy conference, and the RMT AGM – have passed policies calling for a protests, including a national demonstration, against existing and proposed anti-union and anti-strike laws.

RMT’s policy resolved:

• To call a national demonstration to resist the law.
• To approach other transport unions to collaborate with us on planning this demonstration.
• To demand that the Labour Party actively opposes the new law, and asserts its agreed conference policy of supporting the repeal of all anti-union laws, and call on it cosponsor and co-organise this demonstration.
• To resource local Branches and Regional Councils to actively mobilise members to attend this demonstration.


Unite’s policy resolved: to call on the TUC to organise a Saturday London demonstration demanding repeal of all anti-union laws, defend the transport unions and the CWU; should the TUC fail to act to organise the campaign ourselves in a coalition of the willing.

And policy passed by TUC Congress in September called for a “joint union rally” against curbs on the right to protest and strike.

There is a growing consensus across the movement that we need to do more to act on our opposition to anti-union laws. Free Our Unions wants to work with activists in RMT, Unite, and other unions to ensure these policies are acted on.

RMT says: we won’t comply with new anti-strike laws

The recent AGM of the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers passed several motions on resisting anti-union laws. These reaffirmed RMT’s strong opposition to all legal restrictions on the right to organise and strike, both existing and proposed, and committed the union to continue working with campaigns including Free Our Unions.

Crucially, in the face of proposed legislation to impose “minimum service requirements” during transport workers’ strikes, the AGM policy commits RMT to refusing to comply with setting the minimum service levels. Moving one of the motions, AGM delegate and Free Our Unions co-organier Daniel Randall said: “This union exists to organise strikes, not sabotage them.”

We reproduce one of the motions passed below. See also this report in the Morning Star.


This Annual General Meeting notes:

• The Tories’ policy of imposing minimum service requirements during industrial action in the transport sector, which will restrict transport workers’ ability to beat the bosses through strike action, impacting on our pay, conditions and lives.
• This attack demands a large scale, assertive campaign from the RMT and other transport unions alongside united resistance across the labour movement. It is an attack on transport workers and workers’ organisation in general.
• The 2016 Trade Union Act and various laws dating back to the 1980s mean Britain already has what Tony Blair proudly called ‘the most restrictive union laws in the western world’. This further restriction on workers’ organisation is an issue of democratic rights. It indicates that there is an authoritarian flavour to the Conservative government under Boris Johnson.

This AGM further notes the RMT’s existing policy in favour of campaigning for the repeal of all anti-union laws and for the right to strike, reaffirmed by RMT’s support for Free Our Unions in 2019 and by RMT’s ongoing support for other campaigns active around these issues, including the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and the National Shop Stewards Network. This AGM notes that activists from Free Our Unions, the National Shop Stewards Network, and other trade union bodies are working together to boost campaigning across the labour movement to defeat this attack and win trade union freedom.

This AGM further notes the successful training event on understanding and confronting anti-union legislation organised by the London Transport Regional Council on 22 February [2020].

This AGM further notes that, regrettably, International Labour Organisation guidance suggests that minimum service laws are permissible where unions have the opportunity to be involved in negotiations to set the minimum service level. However, the guidance goes on to say that, should agreement not be reached, courts can set a minimum service level, therefore ultimately handing power to a legal system which is structurally biased in favour of the bosses.

This AGM the believes that, should minimum service levels under the terms of potential new laws be determined by negotiation between employers and unions, RMT should not participate in such negotiations, as to do so would force us to be complicit in instructing some of our own members to work during strikes.

This AGM resolves:

• To continue supporting the activity of Free Our Unions and other campaigns promoting trade union freedom.
• To participate in campaign activities organised across the labour movement to resist this law.
• To roll out the London Transport Regional Council training event on fighting the anti-union laws nationally.

This AGM further resolves:

• To call a national demonstration to resist the law.
• To approach other transport unions to collaborate with us on planning this demonstration.
• To demand that the Labour Party actively opposes the new law, and asserts its agreed conference policy of supporting the repeal of all anti-union laws, and call on it cosponsor and co-organise this demonstration.
• To resource local Branches and Regional Councils to actively mobilise members to attend this demonstration.
• To adopt a policy of non-complicity in setting minimum service levels.

Free Our Unions at the COP26 People’s Summit

Free Our Unions is co-sponsoring a meeting at the People’s Summit running alongside the COP26 climate conference. Check out the Facebook event here.

The meeting, entitled “Workers’ action for the climate and the fight for free trade unions” takes place on Tuesday 9 November, at 11:45am, in Screen 3 at the Glasgow Film Theatre, 12 Rose St, Glasgow G3 6RB. The meeting will discuss legacies of workers’ direct action for the climate, and look at how the potential for such action today is constrained by anti-union laws.

For more info, including how to register for the session, click here.

You can also attend the session remotely via Zoom. Click here to log in.

Unite reaffirms opposition to all anti-union laws

Unite’s policy conference passed a comprehensive composite on the anti-union laws, committing the union to organising a demonstration and conference against the laws, and breaking the laws where necessary.

We reproduce the motion in full below. Unite has previously taken a similarly strong stance against anti-union laws; earlier this year, Free Our Unions supporters in Unite produced an open letter calling on the union to act on its existing policies. We hope that the passing of the new composite will lead to renewed campaigning by Unite on this issue.

The policy conference also passed a composite on climate change which included statements against the anti-union laws.


This union believes that the election of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government represents a renewed threat to the pay, jobs and working conditions of workers, as well as our trade union rights.

The Conservative manifesto contained a commitment to introduce new anti‐union legislation, targeted specifically at the rail and transport unions which we believe will be extended to other sectors. The Tory government has therefore made no secret of its intention to act decisively against workers in the interests of big business.

Conference notes the Conservatives put an election pledge to create new laws to force workers to provide a minimum service during transport strikes into the Queen’s Speech on 19th December 2019. This flagged their intention to bring such a Bill in this Parliament.

Within hours of the General Election result we witnessed judicial and political mechanisms being used to suppress industrial action. The High Court ruled against strike action across the Royal Mail, despite the Communication Workers Union’s overwhelming result of a 97% vote in favour of action on a 76% turnout. This served as an early expression of an increasingly worker-hostile environment. The judgement received implicit support from the new government and will further embolden employers wishing to impose job cuts and detrimental changes to our working conditions.

Events in France have shown that trade union can mobilise masses of workers and achieve victory over injustice. In early 2020, the Macron government, elected with a huge majority, was forced to give significant concessions to the movement due to militant, co‐ordinated strike action.

Conference believes:

(1) that the UK has the toughest anti‐trade union laws in Europe, the Tories already made balloting for strike action considerable harder with the 2016 legislation; unchallenged and given the opportunity they will keep making it harder and harder for workers to take effective collective action;
(2) if the Bill goes through Parliament to impede the effectiveness of transport strikes the government may try to do similar things in other industries;
(3) it is only by coming together as a union movement that these attacks can be stopped, we need unity and solidarity of the entire movement;

This union resolves:

– to break bad laws through organised action if necessary after all, our trade union rights were won through decades of struggle and civil disobedience
– to call on the TUC to call a national campaign against this legislation which should include a national Day of Action and to prepare the union movement for attacks by the Conservative government by means of a special conference open to all union members or democratically elected delegates
– to call on the TUC to organise a Saturday London demonstration demanding repeal of all anti-union laws, defend the transport unions and the CWU; should the TUC fail to act to organise the campaign ourselves in a coalition of the willing
– to ensure that no union fights alone; if any union is targeted by anti-union laws, Unite will lead others in rallying to their aid.

What Unite’s climate change policy says about the anti-union laws

On 18 October, the national policy conference of the Unite union passed a comprehensive motion on climate change. We reproduce the motion in full below, but highlight in particular its sections on anti-strike laws.

The motion commits Unite to producing “guidance on what climate-related demands to include in collective bargaining, including ones which could be the basis of a lawful ‘trade dispute’ under current legislation“, and to “campaign for a legal right to strike and to repeal all legislation that makes it harder to strike over climate.”

The conference also passed a separate composite motion about anti-union laws specifically, which can be read here.


Conference welcomes:

– the energy, principles and commitment of the school students striking over the climate emergency. We note that the science is unequivocal on the reality of climate change, and the reality that human economic activity is the driving force;
– the school students’ movement as a profoundly democratic and collective initiative, and recognises these young people as the trade unionists of the future.

Conference notes that:

1. the Earth’s temperature has already risen by 1 degree above pre-industrial levels;

2. the urgent need for action on the climate emergency, both in response to existing negative impacts such as extreme weather, fires, droughts, floods and loss of habitat and species; and to avoid the catastrophic and irreversible climate damage which we increasingly realise the world is on course for, after the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report;

3. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 warned that we only have 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. Carbon emissions need to be cut by 45% by 2030, and reach zero carbon by 2050 in order to avoid a dangerous tipping point;

4. the tremendous impact of the school students’ strikes initiated by Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion (XR) rebellions in shifting government complacency over climate change forcing them to amend the 2008 Climate Change Act;

5. the shift in public attitudes to climate change, as quoted in the Government’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 2019 public attitudes tracker: “In March 2019, 80% of the public said they were either fairly concerned (45%) or very concerned (35%) about climate change…the highest since the survey started in 2012…Seven in ten people (69%) said that climate change is already having an impact in the UK”;

6. Unite is a signatory to the ‘One Million Green Climate Jobs’ report produced by the Campaign Against Climate Change trade union group;

7. the urgent need for action on the climate emergency, in response to existing negative immediate impacts such as extreme weather, fires, droughts, floods and loss of habitat and species;

8. climate change is already impacting all aspects of our lives; from more extreme weather conditions, to reduction of species biodiversity, to the plight of climate refugees to air pollution. Fires in Australia in December 2019 and flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia in January 2020 have again highlighted what the stakes are and the urgency;

9. the participation of workers in the ‘Earth strikes’ including solidarity strikes, rallies and protests— most notably in Britain on 20 September 2019;

10. that the 2019 TUC Congress passed a resolution initiated by members of the University and College Union (UCU) calling for workplace action and solidarity with the Earth Strike on 20 September 2020—which was supported by Unite;

11. that school students have continued to call national strikes;

12. That the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) (also known as COP 26) is scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November 2021. Importantly this will review UN member states effectiveness in implementing the Paris Agreement from the COP21 talks in 2015;

13. that an estimated 500,000 people joined protests at the COP25 talks in Madrid after the summit was moved from Chile;

14. that UN ‘COP’ Climate Change Conferences have become a major focus for campaigners.

Conference believes:

1. the issue of climate change is affecting and will continue to affect our members’ lives; we need strong policies to support our members on this. It is a trade union issue;

2. that our trade unions can make a big difference to the movement against climate change and that a fightback in the workplace is a crucial part of the fight to reduce carbon emissions;

3. that the brilliant stand of the school students deserves our full solidarity. They have given us all hope for the future;

4. the school students’ “Fridays for Future” protests have been significant in dragging the arguments over climate change, and the threat it poses to millions of people, to the centre of political discourse, not just in Britain but globally;

5. that the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November offers an important and unprecedented opportunity in Britain for protests that can pile pressure on governments around the world – not least our own – to take action on climate change;

6. the future of our planet is at risk if we do not organise to force governments to cut emissions at least in line with the 2018 IPPC report;

7. that the harshest impact of climate change will fall (is already falling) on those least able to protect themselves – the poor and the dispossessed. Conference therefore believes that governmental action is essential if there is to be any hope of minimising this impact and, as the transport sector is responsible for over 20% of the carbon released to the atmosphere, any climate solution will inevitably impact on our members in the transport industries;

8. opposing climate change is a trade union issue;

9. that many pension schemes and employers, especially the banking sector, continue to invest heavily into fossil fuel without any visible plan to switch this investment out of fossil fuels to renewable energy;

10. that Unite has a responsibility to engage with employers about the issue of climate change and their duty to act responsibly vis-à-vis climate change

11. that we cannot longer wait for our government of choice to implement policy to tackle climate change. We believe that a radical refocus on to environmental demands in the workplace is necessary to tackle the impending crisis and to ensure a just transition to a decarbonised economy, protecting jobs and livelihoods.

Conference recognises that a ‘just transition’ (that protects the lives, livelihoods and rights of working people, the poor and the disadvantaged) to a decarbonised economy is not only right, but is the only way the movement against climate chaos will secure the mass support needed to win, and avoid a rich minority protecting themselves at the expense of the planet and the vast majority of people.

Conference joins our Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner in congratulating the school students striking around the world for real climate action and welcomes the decision of the 2019 TUC to support those school students and to call for a solidarity action.

Conference has no confidence that governments dominated by millionaires and industrialists will seek solutions in the interests of the poor or dispossessed – the vast majority of working people.

Conference instructs the EC to:

1. consider affiliating/reaffiliating to the Campaign Against Climate Change which initiated the ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ campaign;

2. fully involve Unite in arrangements for the protests in Glasgow in November, including by providing adequate transport (chartered train, for example);

3. publicly state our support and solidarity with the climate strikers and with the wider movement for rapid and effective climate action;

4. encourage all units of our union to invite climate strikers and/or speakers from the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group to speak at their meetings within the next 12 months;

5. encourage all units of our union to give practical peaceful support to the climate strikes, without adults taking it over, e.g. promoting the strikes on social media, encouraging members to attend, and taking our flags or banners to such events if agreed with the school strikers;

6. actively seek contact with the school students’ “Fridays for Future” campaign, with the object of initiating dialogue to seek an environmentally-friendly transport policy, which reflect their concerns and our members’ interests;

7. call on all units of our union to organise to make COP26 in Glasgow a major focus of campaigning for effective action on the climate emergency;

8. call on employers and local authorities to declare a climate emergency and involve workers and communities in planning, implementing and monitoring to rapidly achieve zero carbon emissions, including ending investments in fossil fuels;

9. call on employers to recognise Unite green/environmental reps and give them work time for their activities;

10. campaign for legal recognition of Green/Environmental reps similar to that of Health and Safety Reps;

11. provide adequate training for reps including carbon literacy training and training to scope supply lines;

12. create climate action groups or subcommittees at workplace level and within our structures;

13. carry out a major exercise, along similar lines to the work on automation, to understand the potential impacts of the climate crisis, and the responses to it, on employment in each Unite region and sector;

14. produce a set of guidelines and a model policy that reps and officers can agree with employers regarding employer investment strategies;

15. encourage union reps and union members to become member-nominated pensions trustees. Once elected they should be encouraged to join the Association of Member Nominated Trustees who have already significant information available to encourage more ethical investments within pension funds;

16. encourage reps and officers to raise this with employers and demand that as soon as possible they create and act on a time-scaled plan to disinvest from fossil fuel producers consistent both with a ‘just transition’ and with the scale of the climate emergency facing humanity;

17. develop a campaign to call for support for this within our membership;

18. ensure that Unite as an organisation continues to focus on its carbon footprint and how that can be minimised;

19. produce guidance on what climate-related demands to include in collective bargaining, including ones which could be the basis of a lawful “trade dispute” under current legislation;

20. campaign for a legal right to strike and to repeal all legislation that makes it harder to strike over climate;

21. start collating victories and good practice in workplaces via Work Voice Pay, providing good practice and benchmarks for employers across all industrial sectors;

22. ensure that our union is visible and seen as a relevant and useful organisation within the climate movement and that participants in the climate movement are encouraged to join our union;

23. campaign for massive public investment in the jobs required to address climate emergency, including massive improvements in renewable energy, housing improvements (e.g. increased insulation) and public transport;

24. campaign for the return of a Labour government committed to working for the many, not the few, as a necessary first step to ensuring governmental industrial and environmental policies protect our members as well as the environment;

25. actively seek contact with other unions to develop and promote the above to make clear that an economic system driven by a “buy cheap, sell dear” philosophy will inevitably lead to a degradation of the environment – globally, but also in the workplace.