'We are winning'

Unite’s Gail Cartmail moves a key motion on the economy and calls on Labour to stand with union members

Reading time: 4 min

Unite’s executive head of operations Gail Cartmail highlighted how Unite is fighting back against bad employers and the government’s attack on workers on the second day of the Labour Party conference on Monday (September 26).

She moved a motion in debate on growing challenges in our economy, which called on Labour to take effective measures to solve the cost of living crisis, to prevent profiteering and reshape the economy to the benefit of workers and communities.

The motion also called on a Labour government to take back control of essential services and utilities through new models of democratic and efficient public ownership, and moreover demanded that Labour must ensure companies that receive government financial support, investment or procurement contracts are bound by enforceable guarantees to protect and create decent jobs and pay.

In her speech, Gail noted how over the past year, following the election of Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, Unite has fought in over 450 disputes, winning 82 per cent of these.

This has put over £150m pounds in the pockets of Unite members, Gail added, to rousing applause from conference delegates.

“This currently covers 80,000 Unite members – using strikes but also strikes plus,” she said. “Our general secretary is focused on disputes – personally being involved and has refocused our union on driving them to win.

“We are moving the share price as well as the picket line — and we are winning,” Gail continued, noting that this was “the time for the trade union movement to be reborn.”

She spoke of the need to challenge the “common narrative that workers’ pay is driving inflation”, calling this narrative “utter rubbish”.

“Let’s give a clear message to go from this hall to employers, shareholders and the government — it is not hard pressed workers driving up inflation; it is the rampant profiteers,” she went on to say.

“Corporate greed has created this crisis in our living standards and driven down wages.”

Gail told delegates about a dispute not far from the conference hall involving Liverpool dockers, Unite members, who are now on strike because “they believe a negotiated pay agreement should be honoured”.

“Based in a tax haven their employer made £30m in profits in the last year – but refuse to honour a cost of living pay rise,” she explained.

Gail noted how Unite research found last year that the profit margins for the UK’s biggest listed companies were three quarters higher than pre-pandemic levels, and that between 2020 and 2021 average pay for the highest paid directors in these companies leapt a “colossal” 29%.

“Yet it is our members, workers, who are called on to exercise restraint,” she said.

 “The working class did not cause the 2008 financial crisis – yet paid for it through attacks on their wages, their job security, public services and benefits.”

“We will not allow history to repeat itself,” Gail added. “As a union, we are gearing up to support more members to take collective action, to drive change in our economy and to defend their jobs, pay and conditions — and to win.”

Urging the Labour Party to “stand in support of our members in their workplaces – and yes on their picket lines,” she called on conference to support the composite.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas

Related Articles