This week’s episode of UnionDues spends time in the company of Shavanah Taj, who heads up the Wales TUC and takes a look at what the annual TUC Congress can learn from changes forced upon it by the Covid pandemic.
Shavanah moved from being the senior PCS official responsible for Wales and the South West to the Wales TUC’s office in Cardiff in February this year. She reflects on the parallels and difference of the two roles, and whether having better access to the Senedd Cymru than her English counterparts have to Westminster is a boon or a curse. (Spoiler alert – it’s more of one than the other).
Looking at how trade unions and their members have fared during Covid under the devolved government shows the value of social partnership with Shavanah reeling off a catalogue of measures negotiated between the Welsh government and the unions that many of us can only view with some envy and ruefully.
On the issues of building the movement, helping affiliates make effective strategic choices, and engaging young workers Shavanah’s energy is almost infectious. For more on this, take a look at David Weil’s essay on Strategic Decision Making for Unions – basically, do your best to increase capacity and influence in everything you do – and the TUC’s Missing Half Million report, which also featured in episode 2 of our first series.
And if you want to hear the best and most passionate exposition about why the trade union movement’s glass is at least half-full, then don’t miss Shavanah’s own trade union journey.
Congress 2020 – stopgap or springboard?
Also this week, we look at the changes wrought on the structure of the annual TUC Congress.
If you should always cut your cloth according to your situation, the saying goes. That would make the smart suit I wore for my first TUC Congress a pair of skimpy shorts now. With membership half that of its 13m peak and political influence more opaque than blatant, the annual gathering of the union clans surely has to add as much value as it possibly can for the population it serves. It’s a question of necessity in troubled and uncertain times.
So like so many other events, Congress has moved on line, and the team have done a great job of making it accessible, focussed but with enough variety to engage a wide spectrum, and providing a platform for digital fringe events.
But what lessons can we take away from this forced change? Certainly, it’s something to be seen as a springboard, not a stopgap. I offer a personal view that may rattle some cages and raise some hackles. But it wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t make you think!
It’s London Fashion Week from 17 to 22 September, so UnionDues will be chatting to Equity’s Jamie Briers about the union’s efforts to organise catwalk models in our next episode, out one day earlier than usual on the 21st. Don’t miss it.
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And if you want to access nearly 70 union-related podcasts, I’d recommend the Labor Radio Podcast Network, which UnionDues is proudly part of.
Other links you may need from this week’s show are the STUC’s Better Than Zero campaign, Unite’s work on behalf of bus drivers, CWU Openreach members voting by 9 to 1 for strike action, and Hazel Falck’s film on the UVW
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