STUC General Secretary Rozanne Foyer
In this episode of the UnionDues podcast we feature an in-depth conversation with STUC General Secretary Rozanne Foyer (pictured)
The STUC is entirely independent from and separate to the TUC based in London. It has 59 affiliates, made up of unions and trades councils, representing 540,000 members. Founded in 1897, its head office is in Glasgow.
Roz took up office in February 2020 and is the 13th holder of the post – and first woman appointed to it.
We cover a lot of ground in our discussion – how experience of Unite’s organising department helped her settle into the STUC GS role, the importance of political leverage, the Better Than Zero campaign to bring collective voice and action to precarious workers, and the importance of social media and STUC website complementing the overall organising agenda.
A glass half-full
That’s not to mention some fascinating insights into how Covid has affected not just communications, but also caused a fundamental rethink of what organising means in a period of social distancing and lockdown, working with the Scottish Government, and the ever-present question of Scottish independence – or not.
There’s time to for Roz to share her trade union journey, from very junior civil servant, via chair of the STUC’s Youth Committee, co-hosting a session at the centenary STUC Congress with the legendary Mick McGahey, to the hopes for the role she now holds. As you’ll hear – the glass is definitely and defiantly half-full.
Picking out three of those areas, here’s a little bit more;
Organising during Covid
In some ways easier with social distancing, lockdowns and the notion of “key workers”. For example, communication via zoom, teams, and so on can be a lot easier and less time-consuming than trying to physically get into workplaces. Key workers have a strong sense of why what they do is important and (to a greater or lesser extent) dangerous and the value and importance of collective voice. But at the same time, certain sectors of the economy are frozen, perhaps permanently. Precarious workers, including disproportionately younger workers, are hardest hit and least protected, and unemployment is generally expected to rise by at least 1 million across the UK in the coming months. As Roz says, the key union issue is to make sure the organising function has the necessary resources to cope with this wide range of challenges.
Working with Government
In the early days of devolved Scottish Government, the STUC signed up to a Memorandum of Understanding in 2002. This was part of a consciously pro-partnership approach adopted by the then-Scottish Executive. A review of that approach in 2004 endorsed the view that this brought benefits all round. In 2007 and again in 2015, further MoUs were signed with the Scottish Government, led now by the SNP. The change of party-in-charge seems to have made no difference to the value of the MoU as an effective vehicle for the STUC “for on-going dialogue on shared priorities for economic development, public service improvement, equality and social justice.” South of the border, we can but be envious!
One of the most significant trade union figures of the second half of the 20th century. Vice-president of the National Union of Mineworkers, great and distinctive orator (so distinctive that he was undecipherable to the state security services trying to keep him under surveillance in the mid 1980s). But he was also a keen negotiator, quick with many a memorable quip, and had profound and unapologetic faith in his class and collective action, made clear in many eulogies following his death aged 73 in 1999. “We are a movement not a monument,” is an oft-recalled McGahey quote.
In the next UnionDues podcast I’ll be chatting with Becky Wright, Executive Director of Unions21 – not so much a “think tank” as a “think-and-do tank.” Do join me then.
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UnionDues is part of the Labor Radio Podcast Network, a collection of 70 trade union related podcasts which you can access through their portal at laborradionetowork.org
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