UK to get its first tech trade union to improve working conditions and tackle racial injustice

The UK tech industry is welcoming a new player to the scene: its first official union.

Called the United Tech and Allied Workers (UTAW), the union is a branch of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), which says it will represent and fight for workers interests in the tech industry.

Anyone who develops or deploys tech is welcome to join, as well as general workers for tech companies, whether they are a developer, project manager, courier or warehouse assistant. A spokesperson for the branch told Wired that workers from companies including Asos, Google, Monzo and Deliveroo are planning to join.

“These tech sector workers are leading the way as a new generations realise the value of collectivising struggle and begging to self-organise to build industrial strength, and we are delighted they believe the CWU is the best union to help them achieve this,” said CWU’s head of recruitment and organising Ray Ellis.

The idea for the union started percolating two years ago with the Google walkouts, which saw the tech giant’s staff across the globe, including London, protest against claims of sexual harassment and systemic racism at the company.

Helping to unionise those involved with the gig economy-side of the industry could have massive implications for the companies in the sector, such as Deliveroo and Amazon. The e-commerce giant has attempted to crack down on efforts to unionise in the past, however. Yet the UTAW isn’t just for gig economy workers, but anyone in tech sector, says general secretary Dave Ward.

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“It’s indicative of our union’s outstanding reputation in the trade union movement and our innovative communications approach that these self-organised workplace leaders have specifically approached us as the union they want to join and work with to recruit and organise in the sector. They align themselves with our radical, outward-looking model of trade unionism and we’re equally enthusiastic about adding this new dimension to the CWU’s industrial agenda.”

The moves to unionise represent a broader shift in tech workers who want to better the industry and hold the companies they work for accountable, says Sam Franklin, CEO of Otta, a tech recruitment platform. “It’s not surprising to see big tech workers unionising to hold their employers to account. Job seekers tell us they want to work for companies that are benefiting society. They strive to work for companies with a strong mission and strong values, and dismiss employers with questionable business goals. There has never been more focus on better working conditions, enduring efforts to increase diversity and inclusion, and much more,” he said.


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