Gail Cartmail has been elected as the new president of the TUC and committed to encouraging more women and young people to become active in their trade unions during her tenure.
At the organisation’s annual congress taking place online on Monday and Tuesday this week, the TUC elected the assistant general secretary at Unite the Union to serve in the role of president until September 2021.
A trade unionist for over 40 years, having begun as an apprentice hairdresser, Cartmail will preside over the next year’s congress as well as chairing the TUC’s general council and executive committee.
Commenting on her election today, Cartmail said: “It is an enormous privilege to be elected TUC president. I first joined a trade union aged 20 in my first publishing job, when I discovered that a male colleague doing the same job was paid more.
“It was shortly before the Equal Pay Act came in, so I challenged it with HR and was told it was because he was married, “with a wife”. It was a lightbulb moment. I knew about racism, antisemitism, and homophobia, but a pay gap based on gender came as a complete shock.
“I asked my father for advice and he said ‘don’t moan at me – join a union!’ Those words are as important now as they were then, and that’s why I want to focus on two key themes during my presidency.
“To encourage more women to become active in their trade unions, and to protect and promote the importance of young people in the workplace and help them become active in their unions. I can’t wait to get started!”
Cartmail was the first female TUC congress delegate for the National Graphical Association in 1983. She became Unite assistant general secretary for public services, finance, energy and construction in 2011.
TUC general secretary France O’Grady said: “Gail may be the coolest president we’ve had – she’s an ice swimmer! It’s a hobby that shows her tough streak, which I’ve seen in her dedication to winning for working people too.
“She takes on the role at an incredibly challenging time. Millions of people’s livelihoods are at risk while the Prime Minister hesitates on the action needed to safeguard viable jobs. And there’s little effort from ministers to enforce the safety workers need to get back to workplaces.
“We will work together to defend working people against the threat of mass unemployment. And we will campaign for government to enforce safe workplaces and to give all workers the flexibility and sick pay rights needed to beat coronavirus, so we can focus on rebuilding a stronger, fairer economy.”
Cartamail represents Unite on the TUC’s general council and executive committee and serves as a member of the TUC’s Unionlearn board. She is also TUC spokesperson for international development.