In his first speech after it was confirmed on Tuesday (July 12) that he would be on the ballot paper in the upcoming Labour leadership contest, Jeremy Corbyn addressed delegates at Unite’s policy conference yesterday (July 13) – to three separate standing ovations.
Corbyn hailed the work of trade unionists and confirmed his and Labour’s commitment to the trade union movement.
“Strong and effective trade unions make an enormous difference to people’s lives,” he said. “Trade unions are an intrinsic part of our society, a force for good, and the largest voluntary organisation in the country.
He praised many of Unite’s recent victories, including its Fair Tips campaign which may soon lead to a change in the law on tipping, and its work with Sports Direct workers who face shocking exploitation.
He also highlighted the central role that Unite played in securing compensation for blacklisted construction workers this year.
“I want there to be a Labour government so that these practices such as blacklisting, zero-hours contracts and all these other indignities are consigned to history,” he said. “We need stronger trade unions not weaker.
“I want us to have positive rights for trade union members, and positive rights at work rather than the imposition of the extremely draconian anti-trade union laws we have at the present time,” Corbyn noted.
He condemned the Trade Union Act but highlighted the various concessions Labour secured on the legislation thanks to concerted opposition, including on such measures on facility time, check-off, political funds and electronic balloting.
Repeal TU Act
But he said the Act was still harmful and pointedly restated a pledge he’s made repeatedly, to rousing applause – “The next Labour government will repeal the Trade Union Act.”
Corbyn highlighted that the need for unity at a time when the political and social fabric of the country is in tatters following the EU referendum vote.
He condemned the tide of racism unleashed after the vote in favour of Brexit and warned conference that the new Conservative prime minister Theresa May will be just as intent as her predecessor in rolling back the state.
Corbyn noted that Labour will replace the Tory government and in the interim has and will offer “a bold opposition”, one which has already secured many victories including forcing the government to turn back on cuts to tax credits, cuts to disability benefit and the forced academisation of schools.
He highlighted a changing Labour party, one which has inspired so many people, particularly young people, with its new vision of hope.
“This has transformed our politics and turned the Labour party into a mass movement with 500,000 members and rising, three million affiliated supporters and many registered supporters,” he said. “That strength, that power, that unity, and that optimism together can change politics and can change people’s lives.”
Corbyn outlined Labour’s vision for the future, which included a robust industrial strategy, public investment, and strong employment rights that would bring prosperity to all.
“I believe we can build a more just world we all want; we can change this country for the better,” he said.
“Together we are very, very strong,” Corbyn concluded to a standing ovation.
“Whenever the election comes, we will be united, campaigning together for a different kind of country – one that genuinely cares about other people and doesn’t pass by on the other side those who have been neglected and rejected by Tory Britain.
“We can and will create a better society through our action together, through our unity together, our principles together. That is what makes us different, that is what makes us strong. That’s what the unity between trade unions and the Labour party is all about.”