Talking unions with Eddie Izzard at the #heartunions Big Workplace Meeting
A little known fact about Eddie Izzard: He was elected leader of a newly formed street performers’ association in Covent Garden early in his career, citing this as when he first learned about the power of working together to protect the rights of ordinary workers.
In essence, those rights are what trade unions are all about and the very rights that the trade union bill – currently making its passage through the House of Lords – threatens (but more on this later).
Today Eddie hosted the Big Workplace Meeting to help showcase the vital work unions do in workplaces across the country. Hundreds of union branches from well-known companies, government departments, health providers and schools and universities (check out pics from a few of them here) tuned in live as part of their own workplace meetings to hear him discuss the latest on the bill with TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady.
Frances told the meeting:
“Trade unions are good for the economy – that’s why so many decent employers want to work with us, and yet the trade union bill attacks the fundamental right to strike, giving bad employers licence to do what they want … We need collective bargaining more than ever, to protect all the right unions have fought so hard for like carers rights and workplace learning opportunities.”
Frances was on fiery form, highlighting how the government are rushing the bill through with dangerous implications for ordinary workers, like the provisions to lift the ban on the use of agency workers during strikes which directly threatens safety for agency workers themselves and potentially the wider public.
Added to this were concerns about the tough thresholds being imposed on strike ballots, with Frances highlighting the fact that ‘lots of MPs would struggle to meet these thresholds in elections’.
But even worse, she concluded is that fact that:
‘in 2016, trade unions are being denied the right to use e-balloting. The government defends this decision on the basis of security, yet the Conservative party used e-balloting to elect their London mayoral candidate. Why is it a good enough system for them and not working people?’
The Big Workplace Meeting ended with an urgent call to raise concerns about this dangerous bill in union branches and communities everywhere.
The challenge? We need to make this toughest campaign the government has ever faced. In doing so, we should demonstrate real love for unions (heartunions, even) and keep fighting for fairness. When Eddie asked Frances what was the best single thing people could do, she said it would be to ask someone new to join a union. The more working people that stand together, the stronger we are, and harder it’ll be for those who want to attack our rights.
The Big Workplace Meeting was held as part of heartunions week (Feb 8-14) which celebrates the role of trade unions in the workplace and communities. It is timed to coincide with the trade union bill’s passage through the House of Lords. For more information, visit the website here or follow the #heartunions hashtag on Twitter.