Speaking at Unite’s policy conference on Tuesday (July 3) Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Labour Party was “back as the political voice of the working class” as he pledged to bring about “transformative change” under a future Labour government.
“I want to be a PM who’s also a trade union member,” he told conference as he highlighted the integral role trade unions must play in a revitalised Labour Party “if we really are to bring about real change in society.”
He highlighted the damage to working-class communities the Tory Party has wrought over the last decade in government — pay is lower in real terms today for most people than it was 10 years ago; trade unions have been systematically attacked through legislation; and insecure work such as bogus self-employment and zero-hours contracts has proliferated.
There are 400,000 more children growing up in poverty than there were in 2010 and for the first time in history a majority of people who are in poverty are living in working households.
“More and more workers in Britain are earning their poverty, as wages fail to provide for a decent standard of living,” he said. “And this is being made worse by the failures of Universal Credit which must now be halted.”
Corbyn pledged that his party in opposition would vote against a Tory Brexit deal that jeopardises jobs and investment.
Best Brexit deal priority
“Our priority must be to get the best deal for people’s jobs and living standards,” he said.
Corbyn outlined the Labour Party’s alternative to the Tories’ failed policies including a ’20 point plan’ that he said would “not only to redistribute wealth throughout our economy but also redistribute power to give workers more control over their lives.”
A future Ministry of Employment would bring back sectoral collective bargaining, ban zero hours contracts and introduce a real living wage of at least £10 an hour by 2020.
A Build it in Britain campaign would use “public money and public enterprise to drive the engine of the private sector” creating a “virtuous circle” as part of a strong industrial strategy that invests in skills and secure, well-paid jobs.
Corbyn emphasised the partnership between Labour and trade unions.
“If Labour wins a majority in Parliament at the next election we will not be able to carry out the far-reaching changes and reforms we need to make without the help of the labour and trade union movement.,” he said. “We will work with you — the voice of organised labour in this country, every step of the way, to ensure the best possible outcomes for working people.”
Hailed Unite’s successes
He hailed Unite for its recent successes — for winning the London Living Wage for young workers at Greenwich Leisure Limited, as well as winning union recognition at Ryanair and winning a Tribunal case for pipe fitter Russ Blakely, which set a precedent against bogus self-employment.
Corbyn noted the importance of organising in both our workplaces and our communities, and held up Unite Community as a shining example of “bringing people together and organising them to campaign on issues facing them and their communities.”
Concluding his speech to a standing ovation, Corbyn said that “tinkering around the edges is no longer enough.
“We must be more transformative than any government that has gone before if we are going to create a society that is based on equality social justice and respect for all,” he said. “That is the mission of Unite and the trade union movement. That is the mission of the Labour Party.
“We can win the next election whenever it comes by our work now in challenging injustice, poverty and inequality, showing people that hope can replace fear.”