TUC Congress 2023 - winning at work - credit Rod Leon
TUC Congress 2023: Winning at work
Credit: Rod Leon

TUC Congress 2023

The TUC’s annual congress took place from 10-13 September this year, at Kings Dock in Liverpool. We report back on some of the highlights.

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Accord's Carol Knowles speaking at TUC Congress 2023 - credit Rod Leon
Carol Knowles at TUC Congress 2023
Credit: Rod Leon

TUC Congress 2023

The TUC’s annual congress took place from 10-13 September this year, at Kings Dock in Liverpool. Seven delegates attended from Accord: Ged Nichols, Mark Henderson, Lucy Maller, Neil Magill, Sheeba Hamid, Carol Knowles and Donna McGeary.

The theme for Congress was ‘Winning for Workers’ and motions and speeches focused on the cost of living crisis, growing inequality, public services and trade union rights.

Accord speaking out for fair taxation

Speaking on behalf of Accord, Carol seconded a motion on fair taxation, arguing that although working people are facing unprecedented pressure on their household incomes, CEO pay had risen 23% in the last year, bankers’ bonuses are at a record high since the financial crash, and dividends are rising three times faster than wages. “In short, wealth is being rewarded. Work is not.”

Carol went on:

"Who pays tax and how much they contribute are political choices. They have direct impacts for our essential public services and our wider infrastructure. These choices impact directly on fairness and the cost of living of working people. The money you make from working hard shouldn’t be taxed at a higher rate than the money shareholders and property investors generate from their wealth.”

Calling for windfall taxes on the energy companies and for dividends to be taxed at the same rate as wages, Carol concluded by quoting Paul Nowak, who had said earlier in the conference that “this much inequality is bad for our economy. Fairness and growth go hand in hand and that’s why those with the broadest shoulders should bear the greatest load.”

Paul Nowak - credit Rod Leon
Paul Nowak, TUC General Secretary
Credit: Rod Leon

Paul Nowak Speech

In his first speech as General Secretary of the TUC, in his home city of Liverpool, Paul Nowak began by speaking about his own background. The grandson of Chinese and Polish immigrants, he challenged the government’s anti-migrant rhetoric, before warning them that the trade union movement would not roll over and accept attacks on the right to strike.

He also spoke about the cost of living crisis and the need to grow the trade union movement by recruiting new members and reps. And he called on Keir Starmer and the Labour Party to introduce new workers’ rights legislation within 100 days if they win the next general election.

Highlights from Paul’s speech

“I am proud to be the grandson of immigrants, proud of my family, and proud of the contribution that they and millions like them have made to this country.”

“The right to strike is fundamental. Without the right to withdraw our labour, workers become disposable, replaceable and exploitable. This new law isn’t about preserving services for the public, it’s about telling us to get back in our place.”

“When [my brother and I] were born in the seventies, there may not have been a lot of money around, but we took the basics for granted. No food banks in every town, no legions of people sleeping on our streets. Jobs, good union jobs, paid good union wages. Families expected that life would be better for their kids than it was for them. That’s all we ask for now. Wages that go up. Waiting lists that come down. Kids that aren’t hungry. Working people treated with respect. Able to go on holiday every summer. To take the kids out, to treat them at Christmas. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for. But it’s a long way from where we are.”

“Nothing is more important than building a stronger trade union movement. Because it’s a stronger movement that can deliver the change workers need. It matters every day, in workplaces, and it matters in the face of the big challenges too. Without strong unions, the shift to net zero will see good jobs destroyed and communities ruined. Without strong unions,

Artificial Intelligence and new technology will deliver a digital dividend for the tech giants not workers. And without strong unions, workers will never have the power to enforce their rights at work.”

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Deputy Leader - credit: Rod Leon
Angela Rayner, Labour’s Deputy Leader
Credit: Rod Leon

Angela Rayner on the New Deal for Working People

Angela Rayner, Labour’s Deputy Leader, also addressed Congress. Her speech focused on Labour’s promised New Deal for Working people, including a new Employment Bill to be published in the first 100 days of the term.

She also pledged an update to trade union legislation to protect workers and reps, including measures against blacklisting and surveillance, improved rights for unions to enter workplaces and recruit members, and enhanced collective bargaining agreements in sectors like social care.

Highlights from Angela’s speech:

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People will transform ordinary working people’s lives. Work will finally pay. Rights will be properly enforced. And crucially it will strengthen the role of trade unions in our society. This is vital. Because the New Deal wasn’t created in an ivory tower by politicians. It was developed in collaboration with you, the trade union movement, and it will be delivered with you.”

“As a young, single mum, it was a Labour Government that levelled the playing field for me when I most needed it. A council house gave me and my son a secure home instead of sofa surfing. That in turn meant I could go out and find the job that I built a life upon. The minimum wage meant that I earned more. A local authority job gave me better skills at work, and a Sure Start centre gave me better skills as a parent. And joining a union changed my whole life. It was thanks to my union, UNISON, that I was able to improve my life - and life for my fellow workers who I represented.”

“A healthier, happier and motivated workforce is good for the bottom line Make no mistake, this agenda is good for workers, our economy and for business Labour has a comprehensive plan to create good jobs across the entire country and raise living standards - all through our new deal for working people.”

Ged's social media posts from TUC Congress 2023