New TUC Leader Calls for Bank Staff to Have Say in
Deciding "Fat Cats" Pay Deals
Cashiers could play 'constructive role' in
remuneration panels, says Trade Union Congress'
By Andy McSmith
The Independent (UK)
July 13, 2012
Frances O'Grady photo:
Frances O'Grady, who is due to take over as the first
female head of the TUC, has called for low-paid
bank employees to be included on the committees
which decide the pay packages of the executives at
In an interview with The Independent, she brushed
aside the inevitable objection that staff with jobs
serving customers across the counter do not
understand the need to pay seven-figure salaries or
multimillion-pound bonuses to stop high-flying
executives moving to jobs abroad.
"People who worry about how a [low-paid] worker
would manage [on the committees] haven't met too
many of our union reps," she boasted. "We already
have union-supported pension trustees who do a
brilliant job making sure that working people's
interests are represented on those boards. It's not
the biggest leap in the world to think that worker
representatives could play a constructive and useful
role in remuneration committees.
"Under current corporate law, those committees are
supposed to take account of workforce interests. I
don't see any evidence that they do, in many cases. I
don't see any better way of making sure that code is
honoured than by having worker representatives on
the committee. It's uncomfortable, for sure, but it
would help break up some of those cosy clubs."
Ms O'Grady, a single mother of two adult children,
will take over as general secretary of the TUC when
Brendan Barber retires at the end of the year. She
has worked at TUC headquarters for nearly 18 years,
and before that at the headquarters of the TGWU,
then the country's biggest union.
Her emergence as the first female head of the TUC in
its 144-year history will highlight the fact that half
the country's trade union members are now women;
a century ago, TUC membership was 90 per cent
male. She hopes her appointment will also dispel
lingering images of trade union members as "horny
handed sons of toil" or "industrial wreckers".
She said: "The image of the unions is still not in
tune with where we actually are, which is fifty-fifty
men and women, with an increasing number of
women at the top. I think it is changing, but I'm not
complacent about this."
Her appointment is also expected to have an impact
on the male culture of some of the industrial
unions, where there is historic opposition to seeing
women in prominent positions in the union
Norman Willis, a former TUC general secretary, was
one of the first to write to congratulate Ms O'Grady
when news of her appointment came. The opening
sentence of his letter said: "The days when blokes
used to cat call women as they got up to speak at
TUC Congress are well and truly over."
She remarked: "It's good to be reminded of that
history, but it is equally important to remember that
we wouldn't have equal pay for women if it wasn't
for women trade unionists organising themselves
and going on strike to achieve it.
"For sure, they had some who opposed them in the
trade union movement, but they also had a lot of
men who supported them."
Part of the job of a TUC general secretary is to deal
with government ministers, so Ms O'Grady will have
to put aside her lifelong membership of the Labour
Party when she visits Downing Street for talks with
One of her heroes was Jack Jones, who led the
TGWU in the 1970s. "He was powerful because he
was an incredible leader and the authentic voice of
working people," she says.
Another role model was Margaret Prosser, now a
Labour peer, who rose to be deputy head of the
TGWU. "I would never have dreamed of doing some
of the things I've done if Margaret Prosser hadn't
broken through glass ceilings."
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