Roger Lyons: Workers still need unions to give them a voice

From a speech given by the President of the Trades Union Congress in Brighton

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We can certainly do without lectures from Digby Jones of the CBI on the relevance of trade unions. Digby, you're completely out of touch if you believe workers are so well off they don't need unions.

We can certainly do without lectures from Digby Jones of the CBI on the relevance of trade unions. Digby, you're completely out of touch if you believe workers are so well off they don't need unions.

Try telling that to the millions working over 60 hours a week, the longest hours in Europe; to working families unable to afford decent childcare; to agency and contract workers denied the most basic employment rights; to workers suffering from bullying, stress, gender discrimination, unequal pay and racial discrimination. Try telling that to workers whose jobs are threatened with ill-thought out and needless outsourcing.

Too many employers are putting exploitation of the flexible, under-regulated labour market before investment in skills and capital projects. We want to compete internationally on quality, innovation and high standards - not on low pay, job insecurity, pitiful reinvestment in training and equipment, and non-union exploitation.

The CBI knows full well that the unions have campaigned constructively to combat skills shortages, to aid our manufacturing sectors, which are still haemorrhaging jobs, on public services to ensure quality service delivery, restating the public service ethos, and on inequalities which lead in so many parts of the economy to discrimination, mistreatment and economic inactivity.

We need to continue building the movement, its membership and strength. So many of the rights already won, such as the minimum wage, stem from unions campaigning. And strong representative unions mean a real, effective voice for people in the world of work and their families and their communities. That's why we are here.

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