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Steve Turner: my vision for Unite

If elected to lead Britain's largest union as general secretary, I will not only save jobs and defend your conditions at work, but push for green job creation — putting the nation's manufacturing industry back centre stage, where it belongs

FROM Belfast to Birmingham, bus workers to car makers, Unite members want a fighter, a winner, a leader with decades of experience and who has got their back.

Members look at my track record of delivering for workers in buses, construction, aviation and the automotive industry, among young, community and retired members alike and now proudly responsible for 350,000 manufacturing workers and know that they will always come first to the Unite I lead.

I’ve taken on some of the toughest challenges and worst employers out there — and not just forced them to reverse plans to walk away from our people, but to invest and commit more deeply to them.

Whether it’s Cammell Laird or Appledore, I bring the plan that brings the work.

When this crisis hit, I worked night and day to drag this government to the table, to nail down the furlough programme and keep a wage coming in for 11 million people.

I battered down doors and forced this government to get on board to bring 6,500 green jobs to Sunderland and support thousands more with the Britain’s first electric van plant in Merseyside.

I know British manufacturing inside out. I believe totally in its potential to spread wealth to our communities, to reverse the grotesque instability and inequalities caused by the 40-year abandonment of a sector which rightly sits at the heart of our competitors’ economies. Good jobs keep the speculators and spivs out of our workplaces — and I will too.

I know what it’s like to be without a wage, terrified for the family, staring at a lousy future — I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. As Unite leader, I will never, ever allow any worker to go without hope and our solidarity. I will use my every day as leader and every ounce of my extensive experience to lift up our class.

Unite members need a strong, experienced leader at the helm for the challenging times ahead. The Nasty Party never went away. They’re already attacking our rights to vote and protest, disgracefully changing our employment conditions via Twitter — yet watching from the sidelines while fire and rehire rips through our workplaces.

The Unite I lead will hang the vast failings of this bankrupt ideology around Tory necks every day.

We know as we attempt to move on from pandemic that the Tories will do what they always do: make our communities pay for their disastrous mishandling of the crisis, with the hardest economic hit and biggest loss of life in Europe. Shamelessly, they’re starting already.

The pay insult to our NHS and local government workers is a disgrace — little over a pound a day, not even enough to buy a loaf of bread — which is why I will lead Unite’s fight to win pay justice and drive the privateers from our public services.

Working-class children offered less than a pathetic £1 a week to recover their lost education tell us exactly what this government thinks of us — even the US is offering three times that.

Our sick and elderly will be landed with higher prescription charges and their lifelong retirement savings, their pensions — already the worst in Europe — will be drained by Sunak as he patches up the economy on the backs of our people. Snatching back £20 from universal credit destroys a lifeline for the working poor, cash that put shoes on their kids’ feet or a coat on their back.

Now they will force working people to work in crowded public spaces amid a rampant virus without mandatory masks and no proper sick pay protection in what is a repugnant Tory experiment with our people’s safety and health.

The union I will build to challenge this will celebrate our unity across our nations and regions, our reps, officers, members and staff. In the Unite I lead, be certain that you will be valued.

I will unleash the talent of our union, investing in our shop stewards and reps so that we thrive together, from the shop floor up, with a determined, common purpose — to win for working people, protect our families and support our communities.

I’ll freeze subs for two years and invest in “one call, that’s all” access, easing the financial pressures on our members while ensuring their union is by their side 24/7.

I’ll grow our union, fighting for investment, full employment and new green jobs with no worker or community left behind. I’ll get gig employers around a table to force them to see the sense in working with us to do the decent thing by employees or face our storm. And when Labour strays from the path that best serves our class, I will call them out, right to the leader’s office.

I am recognised as the leading negotiator in our movement for a generation for a reason: I am driven, respected, with the vision and ability to unite our union.

Together, we will transform our union and win for working people — and I will always have your back.

Steve Turner is Unite assistant general secretary and chair of the People’s Assembly.

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