A New Trade Union for the Unemployed?
A 50p membership fee is expected to encourage the unemployed, the retired, students, and neighbourhoods to join Unite trade union.
There has not been a Trade Union for the unemployed since the early twentieth century. Then existing Unions feared competition for jobs as the unemployed might work for lower wages. A revival of this idea can be seen in a very positive light. Unions will no longer be seen as being for those in full time employment in factories, and government offices.
More fundamentally unions may come to be seen as less sectional; that is as representing only a section of society. There is also the hope that as more non traditional members join Unite they will come to see the need for union action to save jobs and working conditions. More radically, the need to fight actual pay cuts like the proposed 5% pay cut in Southampton Council might get wider local support.
More specifically, the plan to encourage single parents to join Unite will help when strikes over education hit single parents, who may have to lose their jobs in order to look after their children during a strike.This can be seen as unions taking seriously their role in educating the public about why they act, when such action has a negative effect on those who rely on the services normally supplied.
But for this positive scenario to actually happen there needs to be a great deal of outreach work by unions into the wider society, well before strike action happens this coming autumn. If this outreach does not happen, or not enough of it happens, then all this will be seen cynically as just talk!
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