The pandemic and precarious work: New Unionism today

Date: Saturday 30th October
Time: 10:30 - 12:15
Speaker: Natasha Sorrell

The Covid pandemic has accelerated the trend towards low paid and precarious work for millions of people. Pay and conditions have been slashed so much that people are unwilling to work resulting in labour shortages. It feels as if “we are drowning in insecurity with no help in sight”, according to one recent graduate interviewed by the Financial Times.

This isn’t the first time workers have faced such conditions. In the late 19th Century unorganised, low paid, precarious workers began organising themselves and taking militant action to fight their bosses for better pay and conditions. This movement was New Unionism and it transformed the trade union movement in Britain from top to bottom. It was, said Engels, “an epoch-making fact.”

We should study the lessons of New Unionism and the situation faced by millions of workers today. As the crisis of capitalism continues with no end in sight, it is time to do some epoch-making of our own.


Recommended reading: Precarious work - a Marxist explanation

Recommended watching: Marx's Capital: Chapters 4-11 - Exploitation, wages, and profits