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‘Challenging times – nothing will divide us’

Unite GS Len McCluskey closes Unite rules conference 2019
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Wednesday, June 26th, 2019


I will take the opportunity of having our key activists from across the union, here in one place, to make a couple of points.

 

The first is that we are facing challenging times.  Brexit is one of the greatest problems we have had to face, industrially and politically, since we came together as Unite. I know that there will be both Remainers and Leavers in the hall today.  And do you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t divide us.

 

We are each and every one of us united in fighting for the best for our members, our communities, our industries and our society as a whole. That’s because we are a union – a class organization.  We stand for justice, for industrial communities ravaged by generations of neo-liberalism.

 

We stand for jobs, investment, proper labour market regulation and protections. And we stand for full equality for all working people, indeed all citizens, and we fight against bigotry and racism, as we showed in yesterday’s debate on Black and Asian minorities in our union.

 

So it’s not that difficult to bring people together on a progressive platform.  And that is what Jeremy Corbyn is trying to do in the Labour Party.  Bring the country together around the values of social justice.

 

Reject the division between the 48 percent and 52 percent now poisoning our politics. And he is absolutely right to do so. There is no other route to a Labour government, and no other route to building a better Britain.

 

You will see that your union is coming in for all sorts of criticism for our stand on Brexit, mainly from those still in denial about the result of the 2016 referendum.

 

So let me take this opportunity to make our position crystal clear.  We have one objective in all our political work, and that is supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of Labour and winning the Labour government that can transform our country along the lines this union has always advocated.

 

As our Chair has often said, in or out of the European Union means nothing either way if you don’t have a Labour government. So we are not the union for smart-alec strategies, flip-flopping on points of principle or Baldrick-style cunning plans on Brexit. We are not the ones to extrapolate percentages out of polls to suit and peddle a divisive message. We stand for solidarity, loyalty, unity and a Labour victory above everything else.

 

Of course, there is also a major industrial dimension to Brexit, which is why, for example, I brought together a hundred convenors from across manufacturing industry to discuss our strategy to save jobs. They were not interested in second referendums or anything like that.  They wanted us to work to stop a disastrous “no deal” Brexit with all the dislocation that would cause, and to work with government and employers to end the uncertainty that can kill investment.

 

And that is what we do best as a union.  Fight for our members, for their jobs, for their working conditions, for the future of their communities. You don’t need to hear more about that from me today.  Because you live that struggle every day in your own workplaces, with your own employers.  I never forget – you are the union.  You are Unite.

 

This week you have shown again the collective wisdom of working people as you have debated how better to run your union. You have made Unite still stronger.  And once again you have made me proud to be your General Secretary.

 

You have done your duty. Go back proud in our past, confident in our future and ready to face the challenges ahead.

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