From the TUC

Stepping up the union campaign for a fairer, greener economy

25 Mar 2009, by Guest in Economics, Environment, International

The global economic crisis represents both a major threat, and a significant opportunity, for unions. If we get our response right, we can lay the foundations for a genuine union resurgence, both in the UK and worldwide. Unions have a unique opportunity to forge a new intellectual and ideological settlement, to shape a different model of globalisation, to build a fairer, greener, more stable global economy.

That’s the message we’ll be promoting this Saturday ahead of next week’s G20 summit. Campaigning for a new kind of economy that delivers for the many not the few. One that smoothes the transition to a low-carbon future, that is less reliant on financial speculation and driven more by enterprise, innovation and science.

And as we reconfigure our economy, we have a genuine opportunity to revitalise trade unionism. Ordinary working people need all the support they can get. They need a powerful voice to fight their corner, and a sense of collective security during profoundly difficult times. And that – potentially – is where unions come in.

We need to focus on the challenges that really matter. That means making the case for decent wages for all, and a fair distribution of reward, because in the long run that is the best way of securing economic stability. That means committing time, resources and energy to organising, especially in the private sector and especially among younger workers. And that means articulating an agenda, and speaking a language, that ordinary people can really relate to. Focusing on the issues that come to the fore during a downturn – jobs, redundancies and skills.

There is genuine public anger at what has happened to our economy. Anger too that inequality has been allowed to spiral out of control, and that ordinary people are picking up the tab for the excesses of greedy bankers. It’s up to unions to show we can be a big part of the solution, that the relationship between labour and capital needs rebalancing, and that our movement has a genuine contribution to make to Britain’s economic future.

Our task is clear. Unions must present a progressive vision of the future that really captures the imagination of the British people. Showing that there can be no going back to business as usual, making the case for radical change, resisting the temptation to embrace simplistic solutions. Not lapsing into protectionism – but promoting the virtues of free and fair trade. Not turning the clock back to the 1970s – but winning the new battle of ideas. And not opposing globalisation – but seeking to humanise it.

This post is taken from my speech to the Unions21 conference today.