We are living in unparalleled times and along with the tragic loss of life and damage to health, we’ve also seen the huge risk the pandemic poses to workers’ jobs, pay, safety and conditions. That is why trade unions are more important than ever and I am supporting HeartUnions week, which started yesterday.

Having worked in the trade union movement, I’ve seen first-hand the massive difference unions make for everyone at work and I urge anyone not already in a union to join.

When a group of workers act and speak together, their employer has to listen, which is how unions make things better.

According to the TUC, on average, union members get higher pay than non-members. They are also likely to get better sickness and pension benefits, more paid holiday and more control over things like shifts and working hours. This is because workers join together to negotiate pay and conditions.

We wouldn’t have basic working rights like weekends, holidays and maternity and sick pay if it wasn’t for people coming together through the trade union movement, over decades, to demand change.

Unions can push managers to make workplaces more inclusive for women, LGBT workers, black, Asian and minority ethnic workers, older workers and disabled workers.

They can also use existing legislation to force measures that make workplaces safer, which could not be more important that when we are facing such serious risks to life and health.

Every year, unions train thousands of reps to spot unsafe working practices and cut accident rates.

That’s why workplaces with union representation have significantly lower injury rates.

If you run into problems at work, your union has your back.

Every year unions win compensation for members who suffer injuries or are treated unfairly.

Even mentioning to a bullying boss that you plan to talk to your union can see their behaviour change very quickly.

Trade unions have dedicated representatives and thriving branches in Brighton and Hove and they are sustaining their work with members despite the current situation.

I want to thank and pay tribute to all of the trade union representatives out there for the hard work you do on behalf of others.

The National Education Union attracted their largest union meeting ever when over 400,000 people joined their Zoom call about making schools safe to reopen.

This was immediately followed by a U-turn in the Government’s reopening of schools as Covid cases continued to rise.

Two years ago, I was proud to support an agreement initiated by Unite the Union to ensure the highest standard of conditions for construction workers on projects under council control.

The charter covers direct employment status, health and safety, skills development, fair recruitment and measures to support the UK construction industry.

Whether you work in retail, IT, media, education, construction, hospitality, transport, communications, engineering, private or public sector; whether you’re a shopworker, a health worker, a refuse collector, a teacher, a firefighter, an actor, a call centre operator, a journalist, a delivery driver, an IT worker or self-employed in the gig economy, there is a union for you.

The vital package of measures to support workers through the current crisis, including the 80 per cent temporary wage support for furloughed employees, was a big win for the union movement.

There is no doubt that it helped avoid immediate mass redundancies, but there is plenty still to do – many workers were excluded and still need vital support.

The impact of Covid-19 has been felt across all groups, with existing inequalities being exacerbated, both by the pandemic itself and the response to the crisis that followed.

Encouragingly there was also a huge surge in trade union membership, particularly in unions that represent the thousands of key workers to whom we owe so much.

Let’s call on the government to adopt an investment-in-growth approach to mitigate the looming economic crisis and a new job guarantee to help those who lose work, especially young workers.

It has never been more important to use our collective strength and organising power to demand a seat at the table in the interests of our communities and all working people.