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‘Murdered by uncaring capitalism’

Unite GS speaks out justice fringe
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Unite general secretary addressed a packed Unite fringe last night, September 21 on working class miscarriages of justice. He said:


Less than a week after the 2017 general election we watched the horror of the Grenfell Tower blaze. We knew then that it wasn’t simply a tragic accident. And I said, and I fear I was not wrong, that yet again our class would be left to fight for our own justice.


From Peterloo, to Hillsborough, to Grenfell, to Carillion. It was yet another deep injustice perpetrated against working people.


Earlier this year, just before the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell, the police announced there was no guarantee of criminal prosecutions.


One reason is that the bar is still set far too high for effective prosecutions for deaths through negligence. The police have interviewed the fire brigade under caution, but what’s happening to ensure the council is held to account?


John McDonnell was attacked for saying that those who died in the tower were murdered by years of local authority cuts, by corporate greed and uncaring capitalism. I agreed with him then and I agree with him now.


Grenfell stands as a symbol of Tory Britain, where profit is always put before people. Kensington and Chelsea council represents all that is rotten in Tory Britain, a council awash with reserves to bribe rich voters, unable, or unwilling, to protect working class people in their homes and incapable of accepting responsible for the terrible loss of life.


No arrests, a delayed public inquiry, thousands of people still living in buildings with deadly combustible cladding, And the Tories still desperate to stop the debate around Grenfell being about austerity.


Labour and the trade unions – led by the Fire Brigades Union whose members ran towards those flames that night – continue to fight for the truth to be told about the price we pay for cuts. Because austerity kills.


Comrades, I was at the Hillsborough stadium in 1989 on the day that 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives in the crush at the Leppings Lane end. I searched desperately for my son, who was for a while lost in the melee. And thank god he was ok.


I’ve fought with the campaigners for justice for those victims ever since. For the families and all those affected by Hillsborough, the fight for justice, which the labour movement has been central to, was long and hard. It took 28 years to achieve justice for the victims of Hillsborough.


And though we eventually secured that unlawful killing verdict, and Liverpool fans were cleared of responsibility for the tragedy. Still it’s not been possible to secure criminal convictions against all the senior police officers on duty.


Meanwhile, the fight for justice continues for the Shewsbury 24.


And for blacklisted workers in the construction industry – for whom Unite has won millions of pounds in compensation.


Their lives were wrecked not just by the actions of the construction companies and individuals in them who used the blacklists but the police and security services who we now know, as a result of the Spy Cops public inquiry, were involved in the blacklisting of workers on an industrial scale.


They worked hand in glove with the blacklisters for decades. Only a separate public inquiry into the scandal will reveal the full truth of the scandal.


The fight for justice continues too for the miners beaten at Orgreave, their families and their communities, dragged through the courts under false pretexts. Charged with riot and unlawful assembly.


What was done to them – to the Shrewsbury 24, the Pentonville 5, those on St Peters Field who began our journey to working class representation, respect and democracy, and in Tolpuddle for our trade union rights – by the state – was quite simply criminal.


As, frankly, is the neo-liberal dogma of successive governments from Thatcher, to Blair and Brown the Tory and Liberal coalition, and the Tory government now, which handed the keys to our key public services to vultures and led to the biggest corporate collapse in our country’s history.


The bandits that were Carillion, threw thousands of workers onto the scrapheap, but have dusted themselves off and started again as if nothing happened.


No action taken against the directors or senior managers responsible for the company’s collapse. The investigation into whether there was criminal wrongdoing has been delayed as has those into Carillion’s financial reporting – while flagship hospital projects lie unfinished.


We urgently need company law reform so there can be no more Carrillions. But comrades, we know the only way to achieve justice for the victims of Carillion, Shrewsbury, Orgreave, Grenfell and all the other injustices meted out on working class people, is a Jeremy Corbyn government. Committed to opening inquiries, to releasing papers, to compelling all relevant organisations and individuals to give evidence.


A Jeremy Corbyn government gives hope to the victims of injustice, which is why, for all working class victims of miscarriages of justice,we, as trade unionists, have a duty to ensure that Labour wins the election.


Because only Labour’s radical vision can lead to the irreversible shift in power to working people that we desperately need.


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