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SHARON GRAHAM made no apology for defending workers today after the Tories called on Labour to reject Unite’s funding over its new leader’s industrial campaign tactics.
Tory Party co-chair Amanda Milling has written to Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds, urging the party to stop taking funding from the union — its biggest donor — because of “intimidatory” and “sinister” leverage campaigning.
This follows pledges from Ms Graham, who become Unite’s first female general secretary on Thursday, to ramp up the use of the tactics as leader.
Prior to being elected, Ms Graham was leading the work of the union’s organising and leverage department, known as Unite’s industrial action wing.
The department has advocated demonstrations, protests and social media campaigns to target bosses and senior management, with the aim of creating pressure from the public or shareholders on bosses over their exploitation of workers.
In recent years, this has led to campaigning outside the homes of senior management or businesses linked to a certain employer, among other tactics.
The approach has seen Ms Graham win several major victories, including against efforts by British Airways to “fire and rehire” workers last year.
Since being elected, she has also warned Amazon bosses that she is in contact with union leaders in Germany and the United States concerning the possibility of an international leverage campaign against the delivery giant.
The multinational has been accused of systemically abusing supply-chain workers and not allowing them to unionise.
Ms Milling called on Labour to “unequivocally condemn” the tactics, as well as comments from Ms Graham in her manifesto for Unite’s top job that the union has to be “open to working at the edges of the law if necessary” to protect workers.
A Unite spokesperson pointed out that bosses “never think of families when they ‘fire and rehire’ workers at will.
“Company owners’ family are only included in a union campaign if they have major business links to the company concerned. If employers object to that, it is hypocrisy.
“Sharon makes no apology for organising to defend workers. That is what she intends to do as general secretary.”
A Labour spokesperson said that the party and its leader, Sir Keir Starmer, “support the rule of law and trade unions campaigning and organising within it.”
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