President, permit me to report on a year which has seen the most significant
advances for working people for over twenty years.
I report on a year in which two million people benefited from the introduction
of the National Minimum Wage.
A year which saw the introduction of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
A year which will be remembered for the introduction of the Employment
President, whilst all these are important steps forward, without doubt the
Employment Relations Act represents the most significant step in rolling back
18 years of attacks on workers' rights.
It represents the right to:
statutory union recognition for trade unions;
the right to representation in grievance or disciplinary hearings;
the right to a qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal down from two
years to one; and of course
compensation pegged on an annual basis to the Retail Price Index;
But the achievements of the year have not just been about worker's rights;
they have also been about family rights.
Colleagues, we all know that the family unit represents the pillar of
stability in our communities.
We therefore welcome the new family friendly rights giving workers the
opportunity to achieve a better balance between working life and family
And in this unequal world we welcome the improved protection for union
members against discrimination;
President, these are real gains that we will use to defend our members.
But conference, whilst we welcome the legislation we know from our daily
experience that it falls short of what we want and what our members need.
When the Bill was published I said then and I say now `It is the first step
and cannot be the last word towards restoring workers' rights'.
A first step towards real opportunities for the movement.
A first step to rebuilding our membership.
A first step to opening-up trade union organisations to the millions of
workers who still need and want to join our movement.
A giant first step towards a new brand of trade unionism.
But colleagues, we all know that there is still some unfinished business to
Much of this unfinished business is listed in Chapter 2 of the General Council
Report and also in Composite 2.
Yes we have some unfinished business because our task cannot be completed
until we see the repeal of all anti-trade union laws.
Our task cannot be completed until all British workers have proper protection
under the Working Time Directive.
Our task will not be completed until we have employment rights from day one.
I say that access to justice cannot depend on how long you have worked for an
If a dismissal is unfair, then it's unfair after one day, one week, one month,
or one year.
Our task cannot be completed until we have the right to strike without
dismissal - a basic human right, as enshrined by ILO convention.
Colleagues, 8 weeks protection against dismissal for taking part in a lawful
strike is not enough.
You ask the Critchley Label workers.
You ask the Skychef workers. That gallant band of men and women who were
sacked ten months ago for taking part in a six-hour strike.
Our task cannot be completed until every single Skychef worker is reinstated.
Colleagues, in the Millennial challenge debate this morning, we heard why the
TUC must play a leading role in providing co-ordination, advice and
information to affiliates on the new opportunities, which exist.
In the year ahead the General Council will vigorously implement its Action
Plan to ensurethat unions are fully briefed on the many Codes and Regulations
which will be published relating to the Employment Relations Act.
YES - the TUC must become a national resource on how to best utilise the new
Information about how the CAC is operating will help us to decide when and
whether to apply for recognition.
We shall establish a network of key officers in unions to advise on
applications to the CAC.
The General Council will also closely monitor the appointments to the Central
Arbitration Committee, to ensure that the TUC's interests are well
Colleagues, the next year will be a crucial one and good intentions alone will
not be enough. We will be required to follow two simple rules -
self-discipline and self-regulation.
Let me offer a word of warning here - if we fail to regulate ourselves, then
as sure as night follows day, regulation will be imposed from outside.
If we can't negotiate between ourselves how then can we negotiate for others?
Despite the scale of the challenges ahead, I am confident that we shall
I am confident about our success because what binds us together is our shared
history, our common values and our desire to promote the interests of all
Colleagues, we will not look back in anger, we shall look forward with a new
Colleagues, we have not just the will to win, we have the vision to succeed.
Together, we have campaigned long and hard for these new opportunities.
Together we shall make them work.