The Last Word: Power in a union

flag-768x576Unison’s huge victory, the BBC pay gap, a brave councillor and a big thank you – Progress director Richard Angell has this week’s Last Word

First published on ProgressOnline

Unison did the whole Labour movement proud when they got the government’s pernicious tribunal fees ruled as unlawful this week. The government has to return £34m to those who have been wrongly charged these fees. What they cannot do is ever compensate those who have not sought justice from rouge employers because the cost was a prohibiting factor. At least that will no longer be a barrier to workplace justice.

Sara Ibrahim, Hannah Reed and Ellie Reeves are just some of the people who have written for Progress on this scandal over recent years. Congratulations again to Unison, their legal team and their membership as a whole – collectivism in action showing the different that people coming together can make for themselves and countless others.

Equal pay

The BBC – as one of Britain’s best loved institutions – last week confirmed what many imagined to be the case but hoped would not be true: that the gender pay gap is alive and well. That an organisation that many look up to – and has leading woman at all levels –  can let down its own staff, let alone the country at large, is disappointing. The fact that the women being discriminated against are some of the most talented and articulate – and appear in the public eye – will fill many with despair that there is little that will close the gap in the wider economy. 

However, this is not to blame the women themselves as Sir Phillip Hampton seems to have done with some – at best – clumsy remarks. Maybe nobody would care about Hampton’s opinion on such issues but he is half of the team leading the government’s review into women in boards. This shows a serious lack of judgment. To essentially engage in ‘victim blaming’ because women do not ask for pay rises is just wrong. The people at fault are those who hire the people, see the numbers and sign off the salaries. 

The BBC shows that the women’s movement’s demands for transparency is working and there is going to be the real impetus for change. Long may it continue. Channel 4 should follow suit. So should other public bodies. 

The bravery of public service

Our solidarity goes out to councillor Ben Miskell this week. Having attended a public meeting on the anti-social behaviour caused by yobs on mopeds and motorbikes, the councillor for Park and Arbourthorne ward in Sheffield witnessed the behaviour. He stopped his car, took pictures of the masked biker doing wheelies in the street and the situation turned nasty. The rider circled his vehicle and started kicking it. Miskell was unharmed but his car received hundreds of pounds of damage. He called on the government to reverse their cuts to Britain’s police and called on the police to do what they can to end this behaviour stop it from blighting certain people’s lives.

Miskell is a great reminder that public service requires you to put yourself out there. It should not come with these personal risks, but when faced with it this Sheffield councilor showed hardworking Labour at its best. Well done, Ben.

You can read more here.

Lots done, lots to be done

When we announced that David Sainsbury would be ending his funding of party political causes – Progress included – at the end of 2017, we were able to do so with a plan in place. In the five weeks since we have gone public with the news, Progress members and supporters have really rallied and offered their support. Members have increased their subscriptions, many have joined the 100 Club, and some very generous people have joined out newly-created Thousand Club. This has been extremely positive and makes the task of replacing Sainsbury’s £260,000 more achievable than ever. 

However, the task is not yet done. There is still a risk that Progress might close shortly after Labour party conference. 

So if you have not chipped in, please do so now.

Our politics is more needed than ever. Populism is superficially attractive but will never have the answer to the real challenges facing those who need a Labour government. Only the modernising centre-left can turn anger into answer, and answers into action. If you are not a member, please do join now. If you already are, there is lots you can do to help


Richard Angell is director of Progress. He tweets at @RichardAngell



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