The leader of Britain’s largest trade union, Unite will warn today (Monday 23 September) that Labour must speak for ordinary workers to have a future and once again become a ‘moral crusade’ to forge a new settlement for working people.
Moving Unite’s motion ‘new rights, new freedoms’, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite will say: “Harold Wilson once said that if Labour is not a moral crusade - then we are nothing.
“And in the 43 years I’ve been a member of the Labour party, argument and debate has raged over that very issue.
“Some say ideals without power mean nothing. And others say power without purpose leads to betrayal.
“But one thing is certain, that if our party is to have a future it must speak for ordinary workers and it must represent the voice of organised Labour.
“More and more economists recognise - what we’ve always known - that wage depression is a fundamental obstacle to sustainable growth in our economy. That’s why this motion seeks to address the disgraceful treatment, in 21st century Britain, of trade unionists.
“Trade unionists are the people in this land who create the wealth of our nation and who are responsible for the very fabric of the civilised communities in which we live.
“And everyone in this party, everyone should be proud of our link with them through their trade unions.”
Calling for new collective rights to stop the ‘wage siege’ he will urge Labour not to be timid saying: “It is said that rights come with responsibilities. I couldn’t agree more. Everyone of us in this room today, has a responsibility.
“A duty to the workers of today. A duty to the millions without work in search of decent employment. And to our young people.
“Our duty to them is not to be meek or timid in the face of the greatest economic crisis of our lifetimes.
“It is to speak up for the millions who have no voice in today’s politics.
“It is to end the wage siege that means our kids are the first in generations to be worse off than their elders –
“The first to have their dreams cast aside – And even the most basic hope of a place to live, a decent wage, the prospect of starting a family – kicked into the long grass.
“Our duty is to set our vision of how we will rebuild our country in government. To give back dignity and a sense of fair play at work;
“And not to allow the ruling elite to succeed in their race to the bottom – dragging us backwards in time.”
Condemning the exploitative rise of zero hour contracts he will add: “When I left school and went to work on the Liverpool docks – dockers used to crowd into a hall every morning hoping for work.
“Bosses used to walk amongst them tapping them on the shoulder and handing out brass tallies which were needed to get a day’s work.
“And when the bosses got tired of that, they would throw the remaining Tallies into the air and watch men fight each other – and I mean fight – because it meant putting food in their kids’ bellies.
“Zero hours in another age. The only thing that stopped it then, and the only thing that will stop it now, is strong trade unions.”
Concluding he will say: “This motion is about the kind of nation we want to be. Not the bedroom tax, food bank, fire-at-will Britain of the Tories. But one where hope is restored.
“This is Labour’s opportunity. For our party, economic credibility should not mean keeping in with the bond markets at all cost. Our credibility lies in a new deal for workers. Let’s set our ambitions high and use the words of that great socialist and early Fabian, George Bernard Shaw: ‘Some people see things as they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were and ask why not?’
“Comrades, pass the motion. But, better still join our crusade, for therein lies the path to victory.”
For further information contact Alex Flynn, Unite head of media and campaigns on 07967 665869, or Ciaran Naidoo, senior communications officer on 07768 931315.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland's largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.