FRANCES O’Grady, secretary general of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) for the last decade, steps down at the end of the year. Sir Kier Starmer, the Labour leader — with whom she has worked closely — has elevated her to the House of Lords.
In one of her last speeches before moving to Britain’s upper house, Ms O’Grady said Rishi Sunak’s government has “a bit of a 1950s attitude around women at work — where women work for love”.
The Guardian reports that she added: “It’s absolutely true that every NHS staff member I meet, from nurses to cleaners to doctors, has a sense of vocation. But women can’t live on thin air. We have bills to pay. We have children to raise. We should get a fair reward for the work that we do.”
O’Grady was brought up in Oxford, in a family with a strong Irish heritage. Her father was a shop steward in what was then the British Leyland car plant in Cowley and her brother was a miner involved in the 1984-85 strike.
Speaking about the miners’ strike, she said: “Women Against Pit Closures was a really, really important source of practical solidarity and maintaining morale. But I used to wonder when we would see men’s groups organised around delivering solidarity for women.”
Despite her elevation to the House of Lords, she has no compunction in saying she would be willing to see the Lords abolished, as Starmer has suggested. “Yes,” she said, adding that she was attracted to Gordon Brown’s proposal of a “senate of the nations and region, reports The Guardian.