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TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady delighted delegates to the Wales TUC conference yesterday in a hard-hitting speech with working-class solidarity at its core.
“Don’t blame the minimum-wage worker from Poland for undercutting pay. Blame the greedy, tight-fisted boss who wants to drive down the price of labour,” she declared.
“And don’t blame the worker from eastern Europe for wanting a decent home, especially when they’re likely to be living in overpriced rented accommodation anyway. Blame the Tory government’s failure to build decent council housing for every family that needs one.”
Ms O’Grady said that “the likes of Ukip” had got away with peddling right-wing populist myths and lies about migration which polls for the TUC had indicated was of concern to trade unionists worried about the impact on jobs, wages and housing.
There was little point in explaining that migration could benefit the wider economy or the NHS.
The message that worked best, said Ms O’Grady, was that “migrant workers aren’t the problem. Exploitation is.”
She added that while public attention focuses on free movement of labour, “the real story is the unfettered free movement of capital.
“Capital is increasingly concentrated and globalised. Over half of all shares in the UK are now foreign-owned.
“Increasingly, decisions that affect our lives are not taken in Westminster or Cardiff but in Berlin and Beijing.
“We live in a world where too much wealth and power lies in the hands of too few.”
The TUC leader said that the labour movement had to step up pressure on all politicians and demand an economy that works for ordinary people rather than for big business and the super-rich.
“Let’s deliver real reform of our financial system,” she said.
“End the investment strike with a new state bank. Crack down on City spivs and speculators with a Robin Hood tax. And get tough on tax avoidance so, just like the rest of us, wealthy corporations start paying their fair share.”
Ms O’Grady insisted on the need to rebuild union organisation to stand up to the rich and powerful.
“Let’s take the fight to the Tories and to the bosses. And together let’s win a fair future for all.”
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