UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings has received an Honorary Fellowship for a career dedicated to working people and the international labour movement.
Jennings used his rousing acceptance speech to urge young people to get engaged in politics and fight for their rights.
Jennings said, “Experience tells me this generation is engaged and enraged. My message to you is stay engaged. Politics matter. Another world is possible. You know better not to ‘leave it to the market’ and the inequality of the ‘winner takes all’ mentality. You know how inequality corrodes the social fabric.”
Jennings spoke of his pride at his Cardiff roots and the accomplishments of UNI Global Union which he has led since its inception in 2000. He spoke of how his working-class family community shaped his thinking.
“It is not true to say we had little, we had our families, public housing, healthcare, public schools and support to attend further education. Our lives revolved around the Labour Club.”
Those accomplishments include around 60 global agreements with multinationals and the Bangladesh Accord which has recently been extended to run another three years until 2021, potentially saving thousands more lives.
Jennings paid tribute to the whole UNI family, including affiliates and staff, for making it happen over almost two decades.
“Ours is the work of many, not one. 900 unions. 150 countries in a global union alliance of 200 million. We fight for the common good, an inclusive world,” he said.
Jennings told the Cardiff University students that unions have never been more relevant.
“We fight for human rights at work. In previous graduation ceremonies, students would have been wished well for entering the world of work. Today many of you have worked to fund your studies. You have insecurity, low pay, zero hour contracts. Our work places need a union voice – so join!”
Jennings said that unions were winning victories in shaping the new world of work and pointed out that a joint study between UNI and Cardiff University underlined how unions were innovating for positive change in the digital workspace.
“We have won rights for gig workers in music, film, TV, theatre and will win a new social contract for you. Our work with Cardiff University shows how unions are innovating to achieve this.”
In concluding a passionate address he quoted from a gospel song, When we all rise together and face the rising sun. Jennings called on young people to stand to together to fight injustice in the workplace in all its forms, to stand against the haters, the xenophobes, that seek to divide and discriminate.
Cardiff University awards Honorary Fellowships to those who have achieved international distinction in their field. Among the other recipients of the class of 2017, are Wales men’s football coach, Chris Coleman, Cerys Furlong, chief executive of Chwarae Teg the gender equality charity, Rosie Moriarty-Simmonds disabled businesswoman and equality campaigner, and leading journalist and Roving Guardian editor, Gary Younge.