Tinkering at the edges of an unfair system isn’t enough – we need stronger unions to help workers become changemakers

Join our campaign - If you enjoy a take-away as a treat, support the people who work hard for a pittance to serve it and deliver it to you

Trade union members have won some important victories recently over companies like Hermes and Uber. And just this week union pressure shamed Amazon into paying its staff a higher wage.

But we’ve only just started to tackle the problems that workers face today – especially young workers in hospitality and retail.

Now that the worst offending firms are on the back foot, we need to keep up the pressure. These companies must understand that small measures aren’t enough – bigger changes are needed.

So today I’ll be joining a rally of young workers in the fast food industry, many of whom have organised and coordinated strikes at McDonald’s, TGI Friday and Wetherspoons.

They are demanding a fair deal not just from one employer, but from the whole sector.

They want £10 an hour minimum pay and solid jobs instead of precarious contracts. And they want their rights to negotiate with their employer through a union to be respected, so they have a genuine voice at work.

As one of the McStrikers Lauren told me: “Our parents have had a better life than we face. They could retire, go on holiday, own a car and maybe even their own home. But my generation are having to fight just to get a wage that pays enough to live on.”

That’s not right. The UK economy generates far more wealth per person that it did a generation ago. Young workers should be getting their fair share for the work they do, and the opportunity to build a secure future.

So who will help Lauren’s generation?

Not Theresa May. When she entered Downing Street she promised to stand up for people who were ‘just about managing’.

Yet families on low earnings are now much worse off than the day she took office. And the review she commissioned into shady employment practices has not led to any serious action to make work fair again.

But stronger unions can help people like Lauren be their own changemakers. It’s inspirational to see young workers coming together and taking on corporate giants who have treated them like disposable labour – and starting to win.

And it’s not just unions who think so. At our Congress last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury called the gig economy and zero-hours contracts “the reincarnation of an ancient evil”.

He’s right. These jobs are often just a new way of recreating the dismal workplace conditions that our great-grandparents knew.

We need to make the economy fair again. Every job should be a solid job, with a secure contract, fair pay and a proper pension. And that means giving working people stronger rights.

So please join us in supporting this campaign by young workers and their unions. If you enjoy a take-away as a treat, support the people who work hard for a pittance to serve it and deliver it to you.

The rally in Leicester Square is at 11am this morning. Please come and join us if you can. But if not, you can find out here about other actions you can support all across the country.

Frances O’Grady is General Secretary of the TUC.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.