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Article

The United Kingdom: Documentary explores rise of more radical, grassroots unions

The UK has plunged into the worst recession since records began. While a global pandemic has directly resulted in thousands of people being left jobless and without incomes, the insecurity was there long before COVID-19: in 2018, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) found that one in nine workers are in insecure jobs. That’s 3.8 million people with zero-hour contracts, gig contracts or agency work. With that in mind, trade unions are more important now than ever. While critics label them as relics from the past, more and more radical, grassroots collectives have been appearing in recent years... At just six years old, United Voices of the World (UVW) is one of the most well known of the UK’s ‘new’ unions, fighting to protect workers’ rights in high-profile organised strikes at places like the London School of Economics, Topshop and St. Mary’s Hospital in London.  UVW’s action at St. Mary’s Hospital is now the subject of a new documentary produced and directed by filmmaker Hazel Falck and published by The Guardian. United Voices follows contracted key workers, like cleaners, caterers and porters, at St Mary’s Hospital as they work with UVW towards the same equal pay and benefits as in-house staff. The film charts a personal journey for UVW and the key workers, while also demonstrating a reimagining of what modern trade unions can look like... United Voices of the World is a grassroots, campaigning trade union. They were founded to support and empower precarious, low-paid and predominantly migrant workers in the UK in 2014... What’s unique about UVW is they are not limited to a particular sector or trade, like more traditional unions... The cleaners, porters and security guards at the [St Mary’s Hospital] hospital were outsourced to Sodexo, a French multinational, private facilities management company with a revenue of €22 billion last year. Like many of the union cases, the outsourced workforce had been passed from contract to contract, employed and managed by different companies, but many of them had been working at the same hospital for over a decade...

Fight for your rights: the trade union for outsourced workers