2018 marks 100 years since many women and men workers, including farmworkers, first gained the vote. Unite delegates agreed on Monday (July 2) that now was the time for the franchise to again be extended to another group of workers – long-term UK residents.
Unite South East delegate John Burbridge denounced the current system, which allows wealthy people to fast-track their citizenship and so have a say in fundamental political choices based only on their wealth.
On the other hand, people who have lived, worked and contributed taxes for years, sometimes even decades, but who cannot afford the prohibitively expensive fees to gain citizenship, are denied the vote.
Burbridge highlighted that the poorest in the UK contribute a greater share in tax than do the richest, and he pointed to the unfairness of the franchise being effectively bought based on the size of people’s bank accounts. The motion proposed campaigning to allow all UK residents who have lived in the UK for at least seven years to be granted the right to vote in local and national elections.
Unite South East delegate Mohammed Aslan Malik supported the motion – against a backdrop of the Windrush scandal, he argued than now more than ever people who’ve contributed to the UK should be given the rights they deserve.
Unite Hudo Elmi agreed as she gave the example of her father, who was not born in the UK but worked at Jaguar Land Rover for 25 years and still cannot vote. She highlighted that this year is the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and trade unionists cannot let the forces of racism and xenophobia win.
Calling for working-class unity, she said, “Migrants are an integral part of our trade union movement.”
The motion was unanimously carried.