The Unions21 Podcast
Unions21 Conference  2019 - part 2: The Future Of Work

Unions21 Conference 2019 - part 2: The Future Of Work

July 10, 2019

The 2019 Unions21 Conference showcased a veritable powerhouse of ideas and experiences on the most pressing issues facing the labour movement today – how to make the future of work one in which artificial intelligence and digital transformation are our servants and not masters. The  panelists and speakers captured in this special episode, in order of appearance, and for your listening pleasure, are:

Sue Ferns, Chair of Unions 21 and Senior Deputy General Secretary, Prospect

Ivanna Bartoletti, Women Leading in AI and Chair, Fabian Women’s Network

Gill Dix, Head of Workplace Policy, ACAS

Anthony Painter, RSA Action and Research Centre

Natasha Kizzie, Google LCS UK, Industry Manager Government

Christina Colclough, UNi Global Union

Anthony Hayes, TUC

Alison Charlton, Digital Marketing Manager, Unison

Becky Wright, Executive Director, Unions 21

Dean Rogers, Assistant General Secretary, NAPO

Prof Mel Simms, University of Glasgow

To find out more, click on the links above, but you can also listen to Christina Colclough’s podcast here, and find out more about the Australian Fair Wage Anthony Hayes referred to here. Anthony’s case study was the Australian Hospitality Workers’ Digital Union We’re also happy to give a shameless plug for Mel Simms’ new book.

All the Unions21 podcasts can be accessed here.

Our thanks to everyone who came to the conference in any and every capacity.  Sign up for the Unions 21 newsletter and please download, stream, share, review, rate – but above all, enjoy.

Our photo shows (from l to r) Natasha Kizzie,  Anthony Hayes, Becky Wright and Christina Colclough at the conference. Credit D Robertson.

A Makes You Think production.

#FeedingFatCats and other legal stories w/Thompsons law

#FeedingFatCats and other legal stories w/Thompsons law

July 1, 2019

In this special episode, Simon meets the team from Thompsons solicitors, to talk about their work on behalf of unions and their members.  Joined by Lorna Webster, Linda Millband and Tom Jones, the discussion takes in some key campaigns – Patients before Profits (the medical negligence represented by mesh implants), Asbestos Past But Present (justice for those suffering with often fatal asbestos-related diseases), Small Claims – Big Impact (trying to avert changes to small claims cases that will adversely affect claimants) and #Feeding FatCats (seeking more responsibility and accountability from insurance companies). 

If you’re a Unions21 stakeholder or supporter and have a good story to share, please let us know!


A Makes-You-Think production.



Unions21 Conference 2019 - part 1; the Future of Collective Voice

Unions21 Conference 2019 - part 1; the Future of Collective Voice

June 24, 2019

This is the first of two podcasts capturing the highlights of our 2019 conference, held last month at the splendidly refurbished offices of the International Transport workers’ Federation (thanks very much for having us).

Part 2 will look at the Future of Work and the impact of digital tech and AI.  Thisepisode is all about that other burning issue – collective voice in the 21stcentury.  We hear from Mike Clancy, Andrea Genaro, Mel Simms and Danny Mortimer, all under the watchful eyes of Baroness Margaret Prosser and U21 Executive Director Becky Wright. 

There are also contributions from Denise Linay, Betsy Dillner, Nick Child and Judy Shaw.  A full running order is below.

With the report from our Commission for Collective Voice being published on 26 June, this podcast is the perfect companion, explainer and foil.  You can join the debate by emailing us at, or tweeting us @unions21.  We’d love to hear your views.

You can access all Unions21 podcasts here. A Makes-You-Think production

Please download, stream, share, like, subscribe, review, but above all, enjoy. 

Running Order

The survey that Andrea refers to is his contribution can be found here.


Can The Industrial Strategy Deliver? - w/Andy Haldane

Can The Industrial Strategy Deliver? - w/Andy Haldane

June 3, 2019

We welcome Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England to the last podcast of the current series.  Andy spoke with us in his capacity as the chair of the Industrial Strategy Council– charged with holding the government to account over its delivery (or not) of the strategy’s objectives.

We made clear our surprise and concern at the apparent absence of any trade union input into the strategy when it was published. Can Andy say anything to reassure us?  Will the Council be watch dog or a lap dog? And would increasing wages be a route to higher productivity?  Becky also reflects about the quality of union democracy after a visit to the TCO conference in Stockholm. 

Thanks as ever for your support: We’ll be back with series 5 in September. A Makes-You-Think production.

Special episode: US unions and the Future of Work - w/Damon Silvers

Special episode: US unions and the Future of Work - w/Damon Silvers

May 31, 2019

As the POTUS pays us a visit, we talk with Damon Silvers, Director of Policy and Special Counsel at the AFL-CIO, America’s TUC.  In a 2013 article, the Washington Post asked “Can Damon Silvers save organized labor?

That question is even more important today, as a hostile environment rages against organised labour in the US.

But we found Damon in optimistic mood,  highlighting strike activity and community organising as positive signs in a difficult climate. He also makes the case for organised labour being a guardian of democracy itself.  Along the way we also tip our hats to the work of author Edward Bellamy and film-maker Robert Zemeckis.

What’s the connection between Bellamy and Zemeckis and unions in the 21stcentury? And is that Washington Post article true? Have a listen and decide for yourself.

A Makes-You-Think production.

UCU General Secretary-elect Dr Jo Grady

UCU General Secretary-elect Dr Jo Grady

May 24, 2019

In this Unions21 podcast special, Becky and Simon chat with the UCU’s General Secretary-elect, Dr Jo Grady.  What makes the next incumbent of one of education’s top jobs get out of bed in the morning? Was she really, literally, born into the labour movement?  And what is her vision for the union she will now lead?  Jo also discusses her widely-admired research work on how a transaction-based approach has permeated almost every area of life – and the threat/challenge this poses to working people and their unions.  This episode was held in purdah during the UCU election but can now be set free! A Makes-You-Think production

Women, Work and Barriers to Industrial Prosperity -w/Jess Phillips MP

Women, Work and Barriers to Industrial Prosperity -w/Jess Phillips MP

May 20, 2019

In the latest Unions21 podcast, Becky and Simon spend some time with Jess Phillips MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group  (APPG) on Women and Work.  Along the way, we talk childcare (why describing it as low-skill is so wide of the mark) why it’s good to laugh  (“gags are supposed to be funny, that’s the point”), and why we shouldn’t be grateful when we win.  If we categorise people as either “radiators” or “drains”, there’s no doubt Jess is in the former camp. We give a shout-out to a great work by NAPO in overturning the government’s deeply flawed part-privatisation of the probation service. A Makes-You-Think production

Enforcing Labour Standards - w/Sir David Metcalf

Enforcing Labour Standards - w/Sir David Metcalf

May 13, 2019

Non-compliance is a major issue – for being paid at least at the statutory levels, for equipment and working practices being safe.  You can have all the positive legislation in the world, but effective enforcement is needed to make good intentions a day-to-day reality.

In our latest podcast, Becky and Simon talk with David Metcalf, Director of the Office of Labour Market Enforcement.  What are the key parts to his strategy and why? 

In a wide ranging and candid discussion, we also look at the current trends in thinking on how enforcement might develop and the restructuring of existing agencies, and anticipate a fresh consultative exercise from the government on just that point. A Makes-you-Think production.


The Future Of Work - Taming The Robots

The Future Of Work - Taming The Robots

May 6, 2019

In the latest Unions21 podcast,  Beckyand Simon talk to Christina Colclough and Jonnie Penn about their work with the 20m strong UNi Global Union and the Future World of Work project.  Are the fears for the future justified?  How can we use this new technology to our benefit?  There is no one better qualified or more articulate on this most pressing of subjects. A Makes-You-Think production

What Future For ACAS? - w/Brendan Barber

What Future For ACAS? - w/Brendan Barber

April 29, 2019

In the latest Unions21 podcast,  @beckyunions21 and @simonsapper talk to ACAS chair Brendan Barber.  What is the future for this paragon of tripartite social partnership? We think you will be surprised and encouraged!  We also preview the forthcoming U21 conference, and definitely absolutely do not give away any Avengers movie spoilers. Honest. A Makes-You-Think production. #DontSpoilTheEndGame