The Unions21 Podcast
Post Election Prospects For Unions w/James Morris

Post Election Prospects For Unions w/James Morris

January 31, 2020

In the new Unions21 podcast, James Morris, MD at global comms/PR firm Edelman, shares his thoughts on how unions can maximise political influence – a key concern given the General Election result.  What he has to say could,  depending on your own views, delight and alarm in equal measure. What are the issues that both unite us and have traction? How can we use social media to best effect (hint:  it’s not all about likes and retweets)? What’s the right relationship with non-Labour trade union networks?  Will the Tories who broke down Labour’s “red wall” make any positive difference? You can read James’s blog here, and access all Unions21 podcasts here.  With Becky Wright and Simon Sapper. Sound recording by Henry Skewes. A Makes You Think production.

Trade Unions And The Process Of Change w/Betsy Dillner, Dean Rogers

Trade Unions And The Process Of Change w/Betsy Dillner, Dean Rogers

December 2, 2019

The Change Challenge is sometimes defined as knowing things have to be different but not how to make them so.  Trade unions and other membership organisations often find the appetite for change in a “light bulb” moment usually accompanied by some kind of organisational crisis – the same point at which many are running for cover under well-worn security blankets. 

Yet if the only thing that is inevitable and constant is change, how can unions make it work both for their organisation and their members?

In the new Unions21 podcast, Beckyand Simon discuss all this and more with change experts and gurus Betsy Dillner, Principle Director of the Social Change Agency,  and Dean Rogers, Director of Industrial Strategy at the Society of Radiographers.  Dean’s case study involves the National Association of Probation Officers

If you have examples of change initiatives in your organisation, we’d love to hear about it:

The Unions21 podcast is a Makes-You-Think production.  Music by the Computer Music All Stars, used on a Creative Commons.

Access all episodes here.

New Union Organising Models w/John Forth and Mathias Askholm

New Union Organising Models w/John Forth and Mathias Askholm

November 4, 2019

In the latest @unions21 podcast, @beckyunions21 and @simonsapper talk with @JohnForth and @MathiasA about union organising models - specifically why unions are in the grip of a  #costdisease, what that means, how it can be detected and what can be done about it. This coincides with the publication of our new paper, downloadable from the Unions21 site - and where you will also be able to complete our special podcast survey.  Music is by the Computer Music Allstars, used on a Create Commons Licence. A Makes-You-Think production.

How Does The U21 Podcast Make You Feel?

How Does The U21 Podcast Make You Feel?

October 31, 2019

We want to know how the Unions21 podcast makes you feel!  Here is your chance to tell us what you like, what you want and what you need to keep on listening and sharing. To access the survey click here Visit to access all our episodes!

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

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