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TUC Congress takes place online amidst covid restrictions

15 September 2020

The 152nd annual TUC congress took place virtually for the first time on 14 and 15 September. The event, which typically involves thousands of trade unionists gathering to debate key issues was instead broadcast to homes and workplaces across the country. 

As expected, much of the discussion centred around the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, with the first debate entitled, 'safety first – working people on the frontline of coronavirus'.

The discussion featured a contribution from Nautilus champion Harley Vardakis, and an accompanying statement from the TUC general council called for 'proper enforcement of the law on health and safety and decent sick pay for all'.

Following the debate, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady used her keynote address to pay tribute to the effort of keyworkers during the pandemic and called for a number of key government measures including an extension to the furlough scheme, and for April's minimum wage increase to go ahead as planned.

As the speech concluded, the TUC launched its campaign for 'decent pay for key workers', publishing a statement arguing that 'it was the hard work and dedication of our key workers that got us through the crisis'.

This was followed by a debate on the 'unequal impact of coronavirus', focussing on the effect of the virus on BAME workers, women, disabled people and LGBT+ people, which the TUC general council statement said, 'have all been disproportionately affected by the health and economic crises coronavirus has created'.

On the second day the Congress debated 'preventing unemployment and building a better recovery', which again brought focus on TUC demands for action to be taken to avoid largescale redundancies.

This theme continued in a keynote speech by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who unveiled a new proposal to ban controversial 'fire and rehire' working practices and called on the prime minister to work with all parties, unions and employers to prevent the 'scarring effect of mass unemployment'.

In the question and answer session following his speech, Mr Starmer outlined his support for the UK maritime sector in response to an intervention by Nautilus champion, Chaynee Hodgetts.

The event continued with a debate on 'trade unions at the forefront of tackling racism', with the TUC statement noting that 'the black lives matter protests have renewed a worldwide call for justice for black people' and recommitting the union movement itself to antiracism and justice for black workers.

The 2020 TUC congress concluded with an international debate, focusing on 'a global recovery for working people', during which it was argued that the pandemic has shown up the failings of global rules that 'put the needs of corporations above those of workers'.


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