Virtual TUC Congress begins today

© Jess Hurd

The TUC this morning begins its first virtual Congress.

The 152nd annual TUC Congress is taking place online today and tomorrow mornings, allowing trade union members from across the UK to discuss the huge impact of coronavirus on working lives and how to stop mass unemployment.

The meeting will hear from TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, other union leaders and frontline workers as well as Labour leader Keir Starmer (10.50am tomorrow). You can watch here.

Frances O’Grady said: “This is a critical time. Working people must not bear the burden of the pandemic – and the government must act now to stop mass unemployment.

“This year’s Congress has to be different, to keep us all safe. We are delighted to be able to welcome trade unionists and working people from across the UK to join Congress online. I encourage everyone who cares about rebuilding a fairer society to join us.”

The event starts with an address by TUC president Ged Nicholls at 10am, followed by a debate entitled Safety first – working people on the frontline of coronavirus at 10.15am.

A statement on the TUC website reads: “Nobody going to work should face risks to their safety and health. But too often, throughout this pandemic, the government hasn’t taken the action needed to keep workers safe. The link between decent employment, proper regulation and enforcement, and the safety and wellbeing of working people is undeniable.

“The trade union movement demands proper enforcement of the law on health and safety, new duties on employers, new rights for workers and union reps and decent sick pay for all.”

Frances O’Grady will make her keynote speech at 11am.

The TUC will launch its campaign for decent pay for key workers at 11.20am. A statement reads: “It was the hard work and dedication of our key workers that got us through the crisis. Healthcare staff, care workers, retail and delivery workers, public transport workers, teachers and support staff, energy workers and thousands of others.

“It’s time for key workers to get the decent pay they have earned. It’s time to raise the minimum wage and ban the zero-hours contracts and false self-employment that leave carers, shop workers and delivery drivers struggling. Join us as we launch our campaign for decent pay for key workers, and a new deal for working people.”

There will be a debate on the unequal impact of coronavirus at 11.45am. A statement reads: “The pandemic has shone a stark light on the deep and persistent structural inequalities which cut across our country. Black workers, women, disabled people and LGBT+ people have all been disproportionately affected by the health and economic crises coronavirus has created.

“Workers on zero hours and insecure contracts and low-income workers have been on the frontline of the pandemic. The trade union movement demands the government promote equality in their plans for recovery, and acts now to tackle structural inequalities.”

The afternoon will see a series of online fringe meetings addressing trade, racism, transport, Brexit, Palestine, debt, climate change and other issues.

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