the media and entertainment union
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TUC Congress commits to challenging insecure work

Mike Dick argues for quality, decent jobs for staff and freelancers in the creative sectors.

11 September 2017

Prospect has today joined fellow unions at the TUC's Brighton Congress in pressing the case for great jobs. BECTU Sector delegates contributed to the discussion highlighting the need to support atypical workers so many of whom work in the creative sectors. The full text of the group (composited) motion is set out below.

Insecure employment and the growing pressure workers are under to work harder and faster for less, are the defining issues of our time for the trade union movement. The Gig Economy is one aspect of exploitation, but across the economy we see the scale of exploitation: zero hours contracts, over reliance on agency workers, bogus self-employment and short hours contracts. The growth of insecure work is not an accident or oversight. It is a business model deliberately used by companies to make more and pay less.

Underemployment is widespread in the economy with workers on short-hours contracts relying on additional hours that are not guaranteed from one week to the next. Part-time work fits the needs of many workers but 2.6 million part-time workers want longer hours and over 1 million workers work part-time only because they cannot find suitable full-time jobs.

Research indicates that these contracts disproportionately impact on young and ethnic minority workers.

Congress acknowledges that in some parts of the economy, for example the professional services and media sectors, the flexibility offered by atypical employment can work to the benefit of both workers and engagers, and supports the right of those workers to opt for flexible employment provided it is their genuine and informed choice, and there is no threat of detriment, or denial of engagement, should they refuse.

Willingness to enter flexible working arrangements should not, however, undermine employment rights. We believe that any worker who is providing labour or services to someone else’s business should have basic rights and protections, to include rights to holiday and sick pay, rights to trade unions representation and recognition, and rights to the minimum wage.

Congress also notes the benefits that improving technologies can bring. However we now live in a 24/7 world where we are ‘always on’ and connected to devices. The pace of living is faster than during any previous era but it is estimated that UK employers are losing over £30 billion a year due to mental health issues, as the work-life boundaries become increasingly blurred. According to some predictions new technologies driving the automation of work could lead to a third of British jobs being lost by 2030. 'Self-service' technologies in the banking and retail sectors are being presented as a reaction to changes in customer behaviour but the reality is that banks, retailers and others are driving the changes onto often unenthusiastic customers to save costs by shedding jobs.

The crucial question now facing the union movement is what are we going to do about it? The exploitation of workers through the misuse of zero-hours contracts, agency work, bogus self-employment and short-hours contracts needs to be challenged. The government-commissioned Taylor report failed to address the need to enhance individual and collective rights to protect workers and bring about a real upturn in terms and conditions. Notably, the Report recommended making it legal for employers to roll up holiday pay, potentially denying workers the ability to access holidays and undermining the health and safety benefits of decent holidays and rest time.

Congress agrees it is time to make greater demands on behalf of all workers and develop a new model of trade unionism that can organise workers everywhere, reverse the decline in overall UK trade union membership and counter the predicted impact of the gig economy. Bad employers will not suddenly find a moral compass because they are asked nicely. They have already made their choice: profit for shareholders, insecurity and low pay for their workers.

Specifically, Congress calls on the General Council to:

  • Develop the TUC’s ‘Great Jobs Agenda’ as a common bargaining agenda to tackle insecurity and publish a trade union manifesto on what constitutes a new deal for workers.

  • Follow New Zealand and ban exploitative zero hours contracts

  • Start to deal with the problem of short-hours contracts by giving workers a statutory right to contracts that reflect the hours that they normally work.

  • Demand employers give workers the hours they need and tackle the growth of short-hours contracts in their businesses.

  • Many UK workers are engaged in genuine self-employment and are operating micro-enterprises in their own right. But Government should take action to Increase funding for enforcement of employment legislation and end bogus self-employment.

  • Close the loopholes in the Agency Workers Regulations to ensure that agency workers get equal treatment from day one of their placement.

  • Remove restrictions on access to workplaces where workers want trade union representation.

  • Continue lobbying for protection of workers whose atypical employment status has led to exploitation by employers and ensure that any atypical workers who may be re-categorised as employees enjoy full workers' rights from day one of their engagement.

  • Demand Government work with unions to develop clear policies on the employment impact of new technology including a new industrial strategy that looks beyond the Taylor Review of Modern Employment Practices and addresses the employment needs of the UK population as technology and innovation disrupt organisations and employment models. The TUC should research the practicalities of a new tax for employers on any job lost to robotic automation to pay for retraining, upskilling and redeployment of those whose jobs are impacted.

  • Mobilise for a national demonstration for a new deal for workers to be held no later than the first half of 2018.

To facilitate the above, the General Secretary will bring forward documentation for agreement at the Executive Committee and General Council. This will also include how we build support for a major campaign and reach a consensus on deliverable action.

Moved by GMB, seconded by USDAW, supported by CWU, Prospect, NUJ, Accord, Unite, Equity, Community.


BECTU Sector Executive Committee member Mike Dick spoke for the creative sectors in the debate. Read the full text of his speech on the BECTU blog

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