Frances O'Grady - unsung trade union hero
13 February 2021
In keeping with the new tradition (begun last month!) as part of my TULO officer reports I will profile some significant and perhaps under-celebrated trade unionists. This time Frances O’Grady – courtesy of the TUC website.
Frances has been an active trade unionist and campaigner all her working life. She has been employed in a range of jobs from shop work to the voluntary sector.
Before the TUC, Frances worked for the Transport and General Workers Union where she worked on successful campaigns to stop the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board and for the introduction of a national minimum wage, equal pay for women, and on a range of industrial wage claims.
In 1994, Frances was appointed as TUC Campaigns Officer and ran campaigns for equal rights for part-timers and against low pay. In 1997, she was appointed to head up the New Unionism campaign and launched the TUC’s Organising Academy.
As well as driving new recruitment campaigns in call centres, supermarkets and new media, the Academy set out to attract a generation of new ‘young guns’ into the trade union movement and shift the ‘male, pale and stale’ stereotype to a profile that better fits a six million plus membership that is now 50:50 men and women.
Frances went on to head up the TUC’s organisation department in 1999 and reorganised local bargaining for skills projects into the unified national brand of unionlearn, which has grown to help a quarter of a million workers into learning every year – a track record of success that continues to attract the support of hundreds of employers and public funding from the government.
As Deputy General Secretary since 2003, Frances led on winning the 2012 Principles of Co-operation Agreement with the Olympic Authorities, guaranteeing on-site minimum standards for local jobs, health and safety and the London living wage. Frances has also led on industrial policy arguing the case for a strategic approach to rebalancing the economy in the wake of the financial crash.
In January 2013, Frances became the General Secretary of the TUC, the first woman ever to hold this post. Fair pay remains a core ambition – she was on the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards, and has been a member of the Low Pay and the High Pay Commissions. Frances is a strong believer in protecting the public service ethos, opposes privatisation and leads the TUC campaign to save the NHS.
Blog post published by Diane Fletcher, in her capacity as Erewash Labour constituency Trade Union Liaison Officer. Photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and are not official Labour Party policy.