UNIONS must “grasp the nettle” and change the way they work or “continue to manage decline,” GMB leader Tim Roache told Congress delegates today.
Mr Roache joined Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, CWU general secretary Dave Ward and the CWU young workers committee’s Fiona Curtis in setting out a plan to start fighting for a new economic and political settlement.
Mr Roache said a new deal was “urgent” in an economy where eight million people in poverty come from working households and those with insecure “gig economy” jobs had no guarantees around hours or income.
“We see young people on the bus to work getting a text saying: ‘We don't need you’,” he said. “Flexible working? Flexible for who?
“Poverty pay forces people to rely on top-up benefits. And who pays for them? We do — the public.”
Ms Curtis said she hadn't known what a union was when she joined BT in Northern Ireland as an engineer. “Less than one in seven workers under 30 is in a union,” she noted, saying tackling the decline in job quality should be unions’ “number-one priority.”
Mr Ward said the campaign for a new deal was rooted in optimism about the movement's potential.
“Our priority is to unify workers,” he said, elucidating the CWU four-point plan for a new deal, beginning with a common bargaining agenda for unions.
The fight for workers’ rights should inform the movement’s positions on other subjects such as Brexit, he reasoned, saying the debate so far on leaving the EU was a choice between two versions of the status quo.
Mr McCluskey said burgeoning inequality in Britain had “run parallel to the decline in trade union density,” issuing a clarion call for the movement to come together under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership for real change.
“The leader of our party is coming under enormous pressure, attacks day in, day out,” he declared.
“Why? Because they fear that for the first time we have a Labour leader who fights for working people and challenges their wealth and power.
“To all Labour MPs constantly criticising Corbyn, turn your attacks away from your leader who represents us.
“Turn them towards the Tories.”
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