Meeting the challenges of the future and delivering for our members

12 June 2022

Prospect’s first in-person national conference in four years has opened at the Bournemouth International Centre.

A shot of the empty conference hall with the main screen showing "Better Work. Better Life. Better Future."

General Secretary Mike Clancy kicked off three days of debate and discussion setting out how he sees the economic environment and the challenges facing the union and its members in the coming year. He also pointed to key achievements of the last few years, highlighting some of the incredible work done by Prospect members, particularly in dealing with the Covid pandemic.


Clancy highlighted the changes the pandemic brought on everyone, forcing people to work from home, turning kitchens into offices and classrooms and hugely impacting on many of Prospect’s sectors including aviation, heritage and the creative sector.

Clancy said:

“But trade unions rose to the challenge. We pushed the government to introduce the furlough scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme that provided an income to millions of workers and saved countless jobs and companies.

“While these were important wins, too many members fell between the cracks of both schemes – particular in the Bectu sector – so we have been campaigning to ensure that no-one is left behind in a future crisis.”

He pointed to the work of Prospect members in getting us through the pandemic. From 999 call handler managers at BT, and scientists at the UK Health Security Agency and Public Health England, to experts at the Health and Safety Executive keeping safe those who had to head into the workplace as the rest of us stayed at home.

Prospect itself responded by changing the way it worked with new ways of working, recruiting and engaging with employers, members and potential members.

Attacks on unions from Government

Mike Clancy made clear that one of the key challenges facing Prospect and other unions is attacks from government on our members and on us:

“In an attempt to distract from its failure to deal with the major challenges facing our country – from the cost-of-living crisis, to the energy security struggle, to the political and economic issues caused by Brexit – the Government is ramping up its attacks on workers and the unions fighting for them.”

He pointed to the challenges our movement and our members face:

  • Unprecedented threats on workers’ rights to organise and to strike.
  • Wages failing to keep up with the bills and weekly shop.
  • The Government’s failure to build British in defence and to invest in regional industry.
  • An always-on culture burning out workers who can’t switch off or get the flexible working arrangements they need.
  • A botched Brexit deal that’s thrown up barriers to businesses big and small.
  • A climate crisis that requires upending our carbon-intensive energy sector and threatens uncertainty for workers who need a Just Transition to Net Zero.
  • An ideological Culture Secretary hell-bent on privatising Channel 4 and scrapping the BBC’s licence fee with no mandate from the public and no care for the future success of the UK’s world-leading public service broadcasting.
  • And the relentless briefing against our hardworking and committed public servants by Ministers who haven’t a clue.

Growth and achievements

While our movement faces big challenges, Prospect has been winning for members and Mike Clancy highlighted some of the achievements of the past few years:

  • Working with local communities, we defeated plans to close air traffic control towers at Highlands and Islands Airports, retaining high value jobs in some of the most remote communities in our country and safeguarding the future of this essential transport network.
  • Thanks to the expertise of our representatives working in film and TV, our negotiators in Bectu helped design the British Film Commission’s Covid protocols, which enabled film and TV production to restart in July 2020 and helped thousands of members to return to paid work. These protocols became a standard adopted across the world, which wouldn’t have been possible without Bectu’s leadership.
  • Over the past two years, our legal team has recovered over £2 million in compensation in employment law cases taken through the employment tribunal or court – and almost £6 million in compensation for members with personal injury claims. We will never stand by when bosses fail to live up to their obligations to their staff.
  • And our communications team won the TUC award for the best communications with reps and activists for our Union Superheroes campaign that encouraged members to take the next step and become a rep.

Mike Clancy concluded:

“This week, we’ve gathered here to debate about how we win better work, a better life and a better future. There will be motions, there will be debate, there will be fringes and panels. But the real work – putting these words into action – comes after. Let’s go back to our workplaces with a renewed resolve to recruit, retain and rebuild – because our strength comes in numbers and together we can and we will win that better future.”