Gail Cartmail elected TUC President

Gail Cartmail has today been elected as the new President of the TUC. 

Gail, who is assistant general secretary at Unite, will serve in the role for a year and preside over the TUC Congress in September 2021. She will also chair the TUC’s general council and executive committee.

Gail grew up in a council house with her postman father, and her mother who was a refugee from the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands.

She first entered the workplace aged 15 as an apprentice hairdresser and went on to train in print graphics and design.

She has represented workers as a trade unionist for more than 40 years, first as a member of the National Graphical Association (NGA), where she was elected as Mother of Chapel and was the union’s first female delegate at the TUC Congress in 1983.

Holding a wide range of union posts over the years, Gail became Unite assistant general secretary for public services, finance, energy and construction in 2011.

Gail represents Unite on the TUC’s general council and executive committee and serves as a member of the TUC’s Union Learn Board. She is also TUC spokeswoman for International Development.

Gail Cartmail said: “It is an enormous privilege to be elected TUC President. I first joined a trade union aged 20 in my first publishing job, when I discovered that a male colleague doing the same job was paid more. It was shortly before the Equal Pay Act came in, so I challenged it with HR and was told it was because he was married, ‘with a wife’. It was a lightbulb moment. I knew about racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia, but a pay gap based on gender came as a complete shock.

“I asked my father for advice and he said ‘don’t moan at me – join a union!’ Those words are as important now as they were then, and that’s why I want to focus on two key themes during my presidency. To encourage more women to become active in their trade unions, and to protect and promote the importance of young people in the workplace and help them become active in their unions. I can’t wait to get started!”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “We are delighted to have Gail as our President for next year. Gail may be the coolest President we’ve had – she’s an ice swimmer! It’s a hobby that shows her tough streak, which I’ve seen in her dedication to winning for working people too.

“She takes on the role at an incredibly challenging time. Millions of people’s livelihoods are at risk while the Prime Minister hesitates on the action needed to safeguard viable jobs. And there’s little effort from ministers to enforce the safety workers need to get back to workplaces.

“We will work together to defend working people against the threat of mass unemployment. And we will campaign for government to enforce safe workplaces and to give all workers the flexibility and sick pay rights needed to beat coronavirus, so we can focus on rebuilding a stronger, fairer economy.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Gail has been a key member of Unite’s leadership team for the past 10 years, since her appointment as our assistant general secretary for public services, finance, energy and construction. She has a lifetime of experience in fighting for working people, since she first became an activist in a trade union when she joined the publishing industry as a trainee.

“I hugely admire the ability, courage and bravery Gail has shown throughout her trade union career and I speak on behalf of our entire Unite family in saying how very proud I am of her election as TUC president. I know Gail will do a fantastic job, doing what she does best, standing up for equality, justice, fairness and international solidarity between workers.”

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