Paul Nowak elected to succeed Frances O’Grady as TUC general secretary

Katie Neame

Paul Nowak has been elected as the next TUC general secretary and will take over the role when Frances O’Grady retires at the end of this year.

The current TUC deputy general secretary was the only candidate nominated by unions. He will become general secretary designate at TUC congress in September and officially assume the role in January 2023.

Nowak said: “It’s an honour to be chosen as the next TUC general secretary. Working people need strong confident unions to fight their corner. A decade of standstill wages, overseen by successive Tory governments, has left working people at the mercy of this cost-of-living crisis.

“But unions are rising to the challenge and fighting back. As TUC general secretary, I will push back on attacks on workers’ rights, make the voices of workers heard, and back our unions to grow and win for their members and for all working people.

“Before I was a trade union official, I had never had a permanent contract at work, so I know the anxiety of life in temporary and agency jobs first-hand. I will be a general secretary who fights for every worker.

“It doesn’t matter if you work in a care home, a supermarket or a power station – everyone deserves decent pay, job security and dignity at work. Join a union, get active and together we can win.”

Nowak first became a trade union member when he was 17 and working part-time in a supermarket. The TUC says his subsequent experience working in call centres and as a hotel night porter means he “understands the insecurity of never having a permanent contract”.

He was a member of the first intake of the TUC’s Organising Academy in 1998, alongside current Unite general secretary Sharon Graham and Scottish TUC general secretary Roz Foyer. He worked as an organiser for BIFU, the financial services union (now part of Unite).

Nowak first joined the TUC in 2000 and subsequently served as regional secretary for the north of England before becoming head of organising. He was appointed assistant general secretary in 2013 and deputy general secretary three years later.

During his time at the TUC, Nowak has been involved in negotiations with employers and unions to resolve major disputes, including at Royal Mail and British Airways.

He led the TUC’s campaign against government plans to introduce regional pay in the public sector. He established the organisation’s Leading Change programme, which develops the skills of senior trade unionists.

During the pandemic, Nowak coordinated union efforts to urge ministers to publish strong safe working guidance, helping to ensure workers had a safer environment to work in. He also led campaigns for sector support for the cultural industries, aviation and transport.

On succeeding O’Grady, Nowak said: “Frances is an outstanding champion of working people – and an inspiration to many as the first woman to lead the TUC.

“From securing the furlough scheme in the pandemic to overseeing an increase in union membership during her tenure, she leaves a great legacy for working people, and I am determined to build on it.”

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