At its conference on the 11th to the 14th September 2016, the Trade Union Congress passed a composite resolution on In-work benefits and Universal Basic Income. The wording is as follows:
Congress recognises the need for a rebuilding of a modern social security system for men and women as part of tackling poverty and inequality. Congress believes that our social security system must work in tandem with our agenda for strong trade unions and employment rights and secure, decently and properly paid work.
Congress believes that, until all employers pay a real living wage, welfare payments will play a necessary role in ensuring that workers are able to make ends meet.
Congress recognises that until the housing crisis is resolved there would also be a need for supplementary benefits to support people on low incomes with high housing costs and that there will always be a need for supplementary benefits for disabled people.
Congress expresses its concerns over the Conservative government’s cuts to the welfare system. These cuts will cause increased levels of deprivation for many working families. The current system has been made increasingly punitive and has effectively been used to stigmatise benefit claimants. The operation of sanctions pushes people into destitution for trivial reasons. The Conservatives have frozen most working-age benefits, including working tax credits, over the next four years; costing the average family £260 per year. The value of such benefits has already been seriously diminished as a result of one per cent increases between 2011 and 2015.
Congress is also deeply concerned about the introduction of Universal Credit, with estimates that the policy will leave 2.5 million families worse off; some by more than £3,000 per year. While the Conservatives may have originally claimed that the introduction of Universal Credit was to encourage more people into work, it has become increasingly clear that this is a thinly veiled ideological drive to cut the support provided by the welfare state to low-paid workers. Universal Credit requires many claimants to commit to earning the equivalent of 35 hours’ worth of pay at the national living wage every week. If workers face a cut in hours, they will not only lose pay but will also face benefit sanctions.
Congress agrees the TUC will campaign to defend in-work benefits to ensure that workers have access to a proper welfare system that ensures those on low pay are free from poverty.
Congress notes the growing popularity of the idea of a ‘Universal Basic Income’ with a variety of models being discussed here and around the world.
Congress believes that the TUC should acknowledge Universal Basic Income and argue for a progressive system that would be easier to administer, easier for people to navigate, paid individually and that is complementary to comprehensive public services and childcare provision.
The transition from our current system to any new system that incorporates these principles should always leave people with lower incomes better off.
Seconder: Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers
(TUC Congress 2016: GPC Report, Composite Motions, Emergency Motion, and General Council Statement: The 148th Annual Trades Union Congress, 11–14 September 2016, Brighton, published by Trades Union Congress, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, tuc.org.uk, September 2016, pp. 27-8)
The motion was carried.