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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  April 28, 2022 12:30am-1:01am BST

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this is bbc news. we will have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. workers across much of the industrialised world have been hit by a triple whammy, inflation is outpacing their wages, the gig economy is undermining job security and intelligent technology promises to transform the world of work. how should employees respond? well, my guest is frances o'grady, they general secretary
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of britain's trade union congress. what ever happened to the power of organised labour? frances o'grady, welcome to hardtalk. thank you. you've had almost a decade at the top of the trades union congress. a decade at the top of for much of that time you been seen as somebody who favours collaboration over conflict. but right now would you say that the trade unions are about to take the gloves off when it comes to relations with employers?
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well, ifavourworkers getting a fair deal and clearly unions are about trying to negotiate their pay, health and safety, decent conditions of working equality. and many, many times we get good agreements with employers so that's important. but clearly, if an employer won't compromise, won't listen that it's important that workers have that internationally recognised right to redraw the labour. if that's what it takes i'm afraid that's what we have to do. it does seem as though something is shifting. i just look at the figures, over the past 12 months at the trade union congress has logged come over 300 disputes in different industrial sectors. it does seem that that far outstripped the numbers before the covid pandemic. are you now in a new era of conflict? i think we are seeing an appetite from workers
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to make sure that their wages at least keep pace with inflation. and at the uk that looks set to hit 10%, calculating just energy bills alone arising ten times faster than wages. so it's not surprising that workers are getting themselves organised and saying, "we want a fair deal, we know that it's not wages that are driving inflation, its global energy prices and we need action on that front, windfall tax cuts on some of those energy companies. i saw the top man at bp saying he had more money that he knew what to do it. well, i think consumers and workers would like to see some of that come back into their pay packets and be taken off thier bills. and that's understandable, highly understandable that workers see inflation, i think official figures have it at 7% right now but as you say could go to 10% by the end of the year. they want their wages to at least try to keep up with that. but i'm just looking at some strikes that have yielded major pay rises in different parts of the uk parts of the uk in the recent past, in
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the south of england a 19% plus rise was eventually given to refuse workers at a distribution centre for a big retailer there was ultimately after a dispute a near 11% pay boost for workers. i mean, these are stunningly high wage prices. businesses say they simply can't afford that level of rise. well, they could because they are greeted. ——agreed and i think it's a positive thing that workers are getting organised and more confident about asking for a fair share of the wealth that they produce. you know, the problem is that if pay packets are shrinking there is less demand in the economy, fewer people spending in local shops and businesses and we end up with the economy stagnating, which isn't good for any of us. so we have to have fair shares... but the flip side of that is that you are dealing across the union movement with businesses that are under a massive pressure as well. we know they are facing
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inflationary rises in their supply chains. we know also that the government is imposing a rise in national insurance, which there can have to pay on their payroll. they've got massive pressures and other workers are coming saying, we want 15, we want 19%. it's unrealistic, isn't it? well, not unrealistic if the company is agreeing it with those workers. in fact, i was meeting the workers where you referred to, ithink, a big warehouse, very low pay, it was a big thing for them to vote for strike action. they obviously don't get paid and they are already struggling and theyjust want enough money to cover the basics. and i think what we have seen is the longest squeeze on living standards that we've had in two centuries. we've already had ten years of austerity where wages were being frozen at best, cut in real terms. people are looking for some of that back.
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and i guess if we're going to talk about restraint that we have to talk about restraint at the top, some restraint on profits, some restraint for shareholders. there has to be some fairness written into that deal. understood. people with long memories, older folk like me might remember the wage price spirals of the 70s and early 80s. very, very long way from that. are we really? because you said to me, although of course, our inflationary pressures are nothing to do with rising ways wages. but actually, aren't rising wages in the short to medium—term going to exacerbate inflationary pressures. that sort of how it works. there is no evidence for that whatsoever, in fact on the contrary, all the pundits are predicting that real wages will fall this year. in fact, the chancellor in britain has stated that there expecting real wages to fall. and it gets to the point where people have cut their own household budgets to the bone and there simply
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it shouldn't be the case that key workers who got us through the pandemic are visiting food banks, for goodness' sake. something has gone desperately wrong. so when the governor of the bank of england, a rather important voice in the economy, andrew bailey, when he said recently that both companies and workers should show, "restraint in paid negotiations". and when asked further whether that meant workers should not ask for big pay rises mr bailey said broadly, yes, that is right. how did you feel about that? i think the bank of england corrected their position subsequently and talked about profits to shareholders to. i think it's born of a kind of orthodox view that somehow if you clamp down on workers that the books will balance, on the contrary, what we've seen time and time again is that if workers pay the price for all these crises every single time then that sucks demand out of local economies and that's not good for economic growth.
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as you have already mentioned, we are also talking about the context of the extraordinarily difficult two years for many people thanks to the covid pandemic. do you think workers have been made to pay a price for covid? because the government has made great efforts to try and insulate workers from the worst effects of the pandemic, thanks to the furlough scheme. well, the furlough scheme was of course a great union idea and i was pleased at the time that we got... you were instrumental but alongside business leaders, the cbi and of course the chancellor rishi sunak are you saying it was all your idea? it was certainly a trade union proposition furlough, something we done right around the world where we can get agreements from governments. again on that premise that the biggest threat we faced at that point was mass unemployment and that wouldn't just mean misery forjust millions of families potentially, that would
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take the economy down, that was the real threat. so this was the first time in the uk we'd had such a wage subsidy. to be clear, those people around the world who weren't able to take advantage of such a scheme, furlough basically meant that millions of people were paid a fairly high proportion of their usual wages to sit at home and i'll go to work because obviously they can't because of the pandemic. yes, it supported and saved 12 million livelihoods at its peak. yes, it was really important. and it did succeed in avoiding mass unemployment, maintaining skills in the economy and making sure that we could bounce back quicker than otherwise would've been the case. and that was something unions pushed for and something we were pleased to get it. not perfect but one of the best schemes in europe. you have also said despite being pleased that these furlough scheme was rolled out as it was, you've also said that is been in europe.
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you have also said despite being pleased that these furlough scheme was rolled out as it was, you've also said that there's been an in particular have been harder hit in general and those people often in fairly low payjobs who had to go to work, they were defined as the essential workers in one—way or the other and they actually bore the brunt of the covid pandemic. in so many different ways. and i think this is true of workers around the world. whether they were nurses or shop workers or teachers, people were carrying on through the crisis, going into work, often at great personal cost and risk sometimes in the case, i spoke to prison officers living separately from their families because they were worried about bringing the virus home. and everybody was thanking them at the time but when it came to the pay round a real pay cut, it's simply not sustainable. so is it your contention that one of the lessons that we a society should learn from covid
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is we should rebalance the pay differentials and redefine what is essential and also what is valued in terms of work? i think many of us did question that. for the first time realise how much people were paid, how valuable the work they were doing. i often say, people weren't out on their doorstops clapping hedge fund partners, they were clapping carers, nurses, key workers, people who were emptying out dustbins, people who were looking after us in the midst of that crisis. and i think it's only fair that they should be rewarded not with a real pay cut but with some respect and a proper pay packet so people can afford to bring up their families. because it isn'tjust about what's in the pay packet it's also about how you work. there's an interesting debate in the uk right now about whether it's time, particularly for white collars workers interestingly, and one symbolic area that's
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being disccused s the role of civil service, white—collar civil servants working for government in london, whether it's time to require them to go back into the office in no longer work from home. is it your contention the government has a point when it now says the time has come, all those white—collar workers who continue to work from home in the pandemic moderated and was largely alleviated, they should not go back to the office? i don't think we can go back to how things were. i think people are looking for positive flexibility. regardless of the job they do or the colour of their collar. i do worry about that class divide, about who can and can't work from home. but i think there's a lot more that we could be doing to make sure that everyjob has positive flexibility. for many workers they want predictability as well of those shifts. 0k, ijust want to be clear with you about where you stand on a cabinet minister jacob rees—mogg going into an office of a bunch of fairly senior civil servants leaving a note saying, "sorry
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you were out when i visited, i look forward to seeing you in the office very soon." do you have any sympathy with him? absolutely not, i'm afraid. i thinkjacob rees—mogg ought to have more important things to be getting on with then interfering on what is industrial relations between the employee and the union who come to agreements on hybrid working. and it's not really frankly, i would've thought he had more important things to be getting on with it and leaving notes for trying to intimidate individual civil servants. you know, i think people are looking for positive flexibility, whether that's working from home or whether it's about being able to swap shifts, being able to have us more flexibility around caring for children, decent parental leave. you know, there's a package of measures that we can introduce to make work more humane. do you think there is that flexibility, that mindset amongst employers to give employees a much greater level? i think they're having to wake
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up to the fact that there are different ambitions. it's notjust women, although it's very often important for women as to whether you can have the chance of getting to work or affordable childcare, the hours you work your way to work from. but i think many young dads in particular that i speak to also want to play a much bigger part in raising their children. and certainly, when they are doing driving jobs or warehouse jobs, the big issue for them is predictability of shifts. perhaps again, in the interest of fairness and compensation if your shift is cancelled at the last moment... we will get on to other aspects of the workplace. for now i want to reflect on a significant moment for you. you've announced you're going to be leaving the secretary—general of tuc job at the end of the year. it's time to review with the uk. would you acknowledge that actually
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trade unions are weaker today in terms of the legislation around what you are able to do, how you can represent workforces, weaker than when you began the job. well, every conservative government has introduced anti—union legislation. the last time they did it in 2016 it was about attacking that internationally recognised right to strike. so is that your way of saying, yes, we are weaker? well, the legal framework is certainly tougher. i think people may ask, "why would you want to weaken workers bargaining power to get a feel good not fair deal at work?" the good news is that membership is bigger, we've grown for the last four years in a row. right, but you're still way, way down to where you were even two decades ago. way down. some 13 million members to what? six point something. how fantastic that particularly women have been
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joining the trade union in numbers. because they they understand that it's only when we join in union that we've got a chance of getting decent... some people might not believe that. this one rather symbolic momentjust in the last few weeks of the uk, which i'm sure a lot of people have been weighing up whether or not tojoin a union may have been watching very closely. and that is what happened at the p&0 ferries company. they unilaterally sacked 800 seafarers without any sort of consultation with the union. now when the boss... breaking more of the land. exactly. when the boss was confronted in the committee the boss said, there is no doubt we were required to consult with the union but we chose not to do that, it was our assessment that this change was of such magnitude that no union would accept their proposals. so theyjust did it anyway. too right. when they're not even paying the crew that
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they've replaced our members with with agency labour, they're not even paying them the national minimum wage. so to write, we would never agree to that. but the point i'm making is you were utterly ignored. he would rather take his luck by facing batavia joe legal action that actually consult with a union. i come back to the point for people watching about what is the point of trade unions and the current legislative environment in which you have to operate? it's not the first time we've had a fight and we don't walk away from a fight when we are faced with such injustice. but it's also where governments have to step up. this is a global industry where we know, in british waters we've had african and filipino workers employed on less than £2 an hour. the agency labour that they replace unionis workers with anti—union rate for the job, they've even tried to cut their pay even further. this is a race to the bottom that can only be tackled by governments stepping out. your words are powerful but are you not in a way, simply making my case for
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me that the unions have been so weakened that there is a question mark about whether they fulfil any important role anymore? look at borisjohnson prime minister, he promised just a couple years ago he would introduce new legislation to enshrine workers' rights. time after time over the last two years is just put and put it back and put it back on the shelf. you can plan, you said this is unacceptable, you have to introduces legislation. still no sign of it. it's one of the reasons why we are calling that mass demonstration in london on saturday, june the 18th where we will have the chance to say to the prime minister directly as working people, you have got to act, you got to make sure that the likes of p&0 don't get away with it. that we ban, fire, and rehire, bogus acts self—employment and that we get fair pay agreements. these are political choices that governments around the world can make. look at president biden
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in new york celebrating that breakthrough in amazon and the right of workers to organise and be treated with dignity. i'd like to see leaders around the world following president biden�*s example and shifting the balance of power towards working people and against bad bosses. because it undermines decent bosses too. let's look to the future then. you've already told me our membership of ship is slowly but steadily rising after going down for many years. i would counter that by saying, look at what's happening amongst young people. one of your own reports, i believe it's in early 2020 showed that trade union membership amongst young people aged between 20 and 29 is14.1%, its fallen by almost half to just 7.5% membership amongst young people in the private sector, which is where most young people work. you are losing the next generation of workers from your movement. absolutely. we've got a get much
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smarter, with the use every tool in the box, especially digital trade unionism to reach young workers. because again, it's symptomatic of what's happening in the areas where they are concentrated, hospitality, high turnover, low pay, insecure contracts. but the gig economy as many people call it, to be honest, some young people say suits their lifestyle. and you as a movement seem to be so adamant that it doesn't serve the interests of workers and maybe saying young people are so sure. i disagree. look at the agreement we just reached with uber. platform employer, we shown that unions can make those breakthroughs, can organise workers and deal in a mature way with those employers but make sure that we are driving up labour standards. interesting. you've got an agreement. can you wield leverage
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even with the biggest confrontations some amazon warehouses are now unions, new tech companies, companies like amazon? we are trying. we've got members, we have to build because in this country obviously you have to get a majority. but we will get there. and that's why i think we take such hard at what's happened throughout friends in the united states. michaeljust me, having a government on your side. ~ , , ., side. well, it tells you something _ side. well, it tells you something when - side. well, it tells you something when the l side. well, it tells you | something when the us traditionally is much less inclined to be union oriented and membership is much lower. it comes to something when they are ahead of the united kingdom when it comes to unionis? the cutting edge tech sector. we work cutting edge tech sector. - work internationally as a trade union, where helping each other. i think some of those guys who don't want to see unions invest billions of
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dollars in union busting. i think their day will come, their time is running out. because we've got to do something about this gross inequality and unfairness at work. �* , ., inequality and unfairness at work. 3 ., ., inequality and unfairness at work. �*, ., ., . ., ~ work. it's got to change. a final thing _ work. it's got to change. a final thing i _ work. it's got to change. a final thing i want _ work. it's got to change. a final thing i want to - work. it's got to change. a final thing i want to get. work. it's got to change. a final thing i want to get to | final thing i want to get to you with and it's born out of a fascinating article you wrote last year about the power of artificial intelligence in the degree to which, when we look towards it next generation of workers, the big fault line isn't necessarily going to be between worker and employer, it's good to be between worker and intelligent machine, artificial intelligence you say, ai is making life—changing decisions about who gets a job, who gets paid what salary, who gets selected for redundancy. the fact is, workers aren't even consulted about and agreed to which machines are now dominating in dictating their working lives.— working lives. how to be changed _ working lives. how to be changed at? _ working lives. how to be changed at? again, - working lives. how to be changed at? again, ourl changed at? again, our employment rights have to keep pace with these big changes at work. one of the rights we are calling for is that right to a human review. because so often
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we see those big decisions being taken by software that has discrimination written end. does it? well, i think that's been proven to be yes. we seen it in terms of race and gender discrimination, in terms of facial recognition, accents. huge decisions about performance at work, whether you wouldn't get work, whether you're fired being taken on this basis. so we walked the right to human review and we want stronger equality rights. it you want workers to have the right to refuse the next level of what many people call surveillance technology which looks at exactly how they conduct themselves right through the working day and even sometimes at home as well. an end to the notion that her worker has any real right to privacy at all.— privacy at all. but watching sace privacy at all. but watching space because _ privacy at all. but watching space because we - privacy at all. but watching space because we are - privacy at all. but watching - space because we are producing more work on theirs. we will be setting a very clear demands, and positive proposals. the crazy thing is is that al could
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be this great liberator, it could take some of the drudgery of work. we could share the benefits of increased productivity more fairly. but instead i think many people experience pretty oppressive and very often as i say, there is racism written in, hard—wired end. we need to tackle bad and we need employment rights that give people the right to privacy, the right to switch off. and the right to switch off. and the right to a human review. we are out of— the right to a human review. we are out of time, unfortunately. to sum up it may be you are leaving membership to trade union in the uk but the struggle continues. and i'll alwa s struggle continues. and i'll always be _ struggle continues. and i'll always be a _ struggle continues. and i'll always be a trade - struggle continues. and i'll always be a trade unionist, always. always be a trade unionist, alwa s. . . , always be a trade unionist, alwas. ., ., �*, ., ~ always. frances o'grady, thank ou for always. frances o'grady, thank you for being — always. frances o'grady, thank you for being on _ always. frances o'grady, thank you for being on hardtalk. - you for being on hardtalk. thank you.
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hello. we have been talking a lot about dry weather in the recent weeks. there with us, were going to be talking about it for another weekend. certainly a lot of dry weather in our forecast as we look at the remainder of april. a deficit for all parts of the uk in terms of rainfall amounts to say proper particularly dry across southern counties of england, 70% down here. with high pressure still dominating the weather through to the end of the month until saturday more dry weather to come. perhaps later on on saturday this low will bring some rain into scotland and northern ireland. clear skies overnight and light winds away from eastern coastal counties, whether they will be more clout, we are open to getting a vase. chilly start to thursday, the cloud in the east pushing its way westwards through the day. quite breezy towards the
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southeast, particularly towards the south coast with the car building through the day across scotland and northern ireland couple we could get the odd night shower out of that. temperatures perhaps a degree up temperatures perhaps a degree up on wednesday, 16 for cardiff in london. a bit cooler along the north sea coast. 0vernight thursday into friday again, a dry story, we will see clear spells developing. at the moment it looks they'll be more clout around, it may not be quite as cold as it will be first thing thursday but still a chance of it process across northern ireland in northern england. friday more clout coming in from the north sea to eastern counties of england, drifting its way westward through the day and again, isolated showers possible for scotland and northern ireland. but dry weather so very much the notable feature for the last day of the week. up to 17 degrees in the west. we are going into a three day weekend, bank holiday we there is that low in the northwest for saturday but by sunday it looks like it's on a heart into
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nothing is high pressure tries to kill it off if a bank holiday monday we are back on a dry afforded. saturday particularly late in the day a speu particularly late in the day a spell of rain for southern scotland and for northern ireland. forthe scotland and for northern ireland. for the south of england and wales still looking dry, highs of about 15 or 16 degrees. the low dosing self as a peters & day for the showers, more clout around and a dry day for many parts of england and wales but not perhaps that much in the way of brightness. consequently, temperatures edge down to 1a or 15 degrees, dry and bright on sunday for scotland and northern ireland. for bank holiday monday it looks like we will see the skies clearing to the south of the uk is high pressure tries to build here once again. there should be a lot of sunshine for monday for england and wales with up scotland and northern ireland will see a waterfront tried to pump in to the high, particularfor tried to pump in to the high, particular for another�*s colic of a cloud in the jets of some rain. but these ties can be very stubborn so it's not a given how far this waterfront will get in. tuesday at the moment there's a signal that it
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may seek rain across a and wales but high—pressure always trying to muscle its way and again through the first week of may. by the end of the week into that weekend coming we will perhaps start to see the weather picture becoming a little more mobile from the west end some traditional low—pressure systems ushering in weather fronts for the first week of may, still a lot of dry weather to come. best chance of any rain probably tuesday for england and wales for england and wales. temperatures a little down on where we expect them to be and yes, for early may, still chilly enough for us to see a risk of frost in sheltered spots.
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welcome to newsday, reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: president putin cuts gas supplies and declares that russia will respond immediately to any country attempting to interfere in ukraine. translation: if they create threats for us, threats of a strategic nature, our retaliation, our counterstrike, will be instantaneous. but, despite that warning, the uk's foreign secretary liz truss says western allies must double down in their support for ukraine. we can't be complacent. the fate of ukraine hangs in the balance. a desperate appeal from those trapped inside a steel
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works in the city of mariupol — a ukrainian commander warns


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