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WORKERS’ rights will be central to the next Labour government, party leader Jeremy Corbyn told a huge rally in south Wales at the weekend.
Mr Corbyn delivered the annual Keir Hardie memorial lecture to more than 1,000 people in Aberdare, drawing analogies between the experiences and policies of the first Labour leader and current times.
He said that Keir Hardie had begun work as a child labourer in the Lanarkshire coalfield aged 10, working at the pits until being blacklisted at 23.
He pointed to the continued existence of blacklisting in Britain, which has been challenged by the Unite, GMB and Ucatt trade unions, supported by Labour frontbenchers Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram.
Mr Corbyn said that, while child labour has been abolished in Britain, “injustice in the workplace is still there — those people on zero-hours contracts, those people that have very poor working conditions, those people in non-unionised places where the employer is over-powerful.”
The Labour leader highlighted the Workplace 2020 initiative, headed by former mineworkers’ union president Ian Lavery, which would launch “the biggest ever discussion about the world of work” to prepare legislative proposals for when Labour has a parliamentary majority.
He wanted broad understanding that “we’re not going to put up with zero-hours contracts, insecure employment, gross exploitation, undercutting of wages and the race to the bottom that is all that the Tory Party and their Lib Dem accomplices can offer.”
Earlier in the day Mr Corbyn had addressed hundreds of Welsh workers from a fire engine in a “trade union pride” demonstration in Cardiff city centre. “Unions have made a massive contribution to society and they have helped the Labour Party to grow,” he told them.
He backed the Welsh government’s bid to use its powers to block the Trade Union Bill, a dispute which may have to be settled in the Supreme Court. Mr Corbyn also used his Keir Hardie lecture to highlight the Labour founder’s opposition to the first world war and the anti-patriotic jibes aimed at him by jingoists.
He quoted approvingly Hardie’s statement that there is “nothing less patriotic than sending young men to die without a good cause.”
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