Congress notes that, over the last 18 months, the UK has faced, in Covid-19, a crisis like no other.
The UK has suffered worse health and economic outcomes than most other countries. A major reason for these failings is the fact that the UK has been hamstrung by a decade of damaging austerity, disinvestment from public services and deep structural imbalances of wealth and power in the world of work, the economy and wider society, that were decades in the making.
Congress places on the record its profound thanks for the bravery and sacrifice of public service workers. In giving thanks to the workers Congress calls on the government to assign a national day to remember those who lost their lives and to remember the sacrifices of all workers.
As a trade union movement we will continue to mourn and to honour all those who have lost their lives to Covid-19. In honouring their contribution, Congress agrees to campaign for the public inquiry into the pandemic to have the authority to compel disclosure of evidence under oath and enable the voices of workers to be heard.
Congress notes the dispute over Covid-19 safety at the DVLA in Swansea. Congress applauds PCS members who have been engaged in strike action and condemns the employer for allowing a mass Covid-19 outbreak to develop, involving over 500 cases and one death. Congress condemns the actions of ministers who intervened at the 11th hour to scupper an agreement to resolve the dispute.
Congress agrees to support the PCS campaign for a full independent investigation into events at the DVLA, for the Minister for Transport, Grant Shapps to resign, and the call of no-confidence in the Chief Executive, Julie Leonard.
Congress agrees that the situation at DVLA is indicative of the government’s disastrous handling of the pandemic, which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of workers and millions of Covid-19 infections, which have, and could, lead to serious long-term illness. Congress also notes that key workers have been most at risk and most disproportionately detrimentally affected by the pandemic.
This should be a 1945 moment with a new social settlement, not only to rebuild from a crisis but to tackle the very same issues we face today that the Beveridge report highlighted then.
Trade unions must now join together and lead the way through the collective power of campaigning and action to make change happen on the ground.
The Covid-19 pandemic impacted significantly on all parts of society. Inequalities and inequities have widened as a result of the pandemic and it has severely disrupted the education of children and young people, and negatively affected their wellbeing.
Congress celebrates the work of the education workforce in responding rapidly, flexibly and sensitively in exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Congress notes the resignation of Sir Kevan Collins, following the refusal to implement many of the recommendations contained within his government-commissioned report into what should be done to support the wellbeing of children and young people.
Congress instructs the General Council to continue to campaign for safe working conditions in all public workspaces, with a full range of mitigations that meet and exceed the government-issued guidance and regulations, eg ventilation. This campaign should also ensure that the additional resources are commensurate with the risks faced by public workers, and that the health and interests of public workers are properly and fairly considered.
Congress calls on the General Council to campaign for:
i. no compulsory return to workplaces that are not safe for workers able to work from home
ii. new-technology agreements with employers that enable homeworking wherever possible
iii. pay rises for public sector workers in line with the demands tabled by their respective trade unions
iv. a pandemic-proofed future in which the interests of workers are protected and where safety comes first
v. both Covid and long covid to be recognised as industrial diseases, with appropriate loss of earnings compensation
vi. calls for a ‘right to rehabilitation’ and the investment needed to deliver it, for those requiring rehabilitation after Covid-19 as well as others whose needs have not been met or have worsened as a result of the pandemic
vii. staff wellbeing and recovery, including access for frontline staff to mental health and psychological wellbeing services
viii. a significant increase in funding for mental health services and improved access for all individuals at the point of need.
Congress agrees to campaign for a new post-pandemic plan before the end of 2021, as part of a cross-union action for a New Deal for Workers and profit-free public services – championing long-term sustainable investment, decent jobs and fair pay across local government, to stop and reverse the privatisation of the NHS, establish a fully funded national care service, to return support for disabled people to pre-2010 levels, defend education, policing and public services more widely, guarantee everyone a living income through the welfare system, build a new generation of accessible and sustainable public housing to address the affordable housing crisis and promote a national mission to abolish in-work poverty.
Congress confirms that it is vital that action is taken to support education recovery. The recovery should be a fully funded programme to address and resolve the effect of societal inequities on children and young people’s education. This must include a root-and-branch review of the academic curriculum prescribed for children and young people aged from 2–18 years of age.
Congress instructs the General Council to campaign for an adequately funded package of recovery measures to:
a. significantly increase funding to schools, further and higher education to enable the workforce to meet the needs of children and young people, including action to end the teacher recruitment and retention crisis; increase staffing to create smaller class sizes; fully utilise supply teachers and ensure properly paid additional education staff; to increase ASN specialist support; and to implement a national mentorship programme for young people who have been disproportionately disadvantaged by Covid-19 disruption
b. secure the rights of children and young people to a high-quality education, including access to a broad and balanced curriculum and the right to be taught by qualified teachers
c. tackle the racial, socio-economic and gender-based disparities that have been exposed and further exacerbated during the pandemic
d. ensure high-quality early years provision is available to all children to support them to have a good start in life
e. end unnecessary restructuring leading to dismissal of education staff
f. add its support to the National Children’s Bureau campaign “Children at the Heart”, which calls on the government to “produce a recovery and rebuild plan designed to enable our children to thrive.”
Supporters: Communication Workers Union; Public and Commercial Services Union; Educational Institute of Scotland; Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; POA; Association of Educational Psychologists; National Education Union; Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers; Royal College of Midwives; and Community