'We need a clear message from Labour'

Unite reacts to Labour leader Keir Starmer’s speech to TUC Congress as Unite delegate poses key question on strikes

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham highlighted the ‘horror story’ of the present government and called on Labour to present a ‘a clear and action-based’ alternative, as she reacted to Labour leader Keir Starmer’s speech to TUC Congress.

Starmer addressed TUC Congress on its last day on Thursday (October 20), outlining what a future Labour government will do once in power.

Highlighting the chaos of the present Tory government, Starmer reiterated his call for a general election now.

Commenting after Starmer’s speech, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Britain is in the middle of a horror story.  When the government talks about ‘difficult decisions’ this is code for ‘workers and communities will pay’. The UK is being lined up for austerity mark two. We need a change in government.

“Warm words are welcome, but we now need a message from Labour that is clear and action based that shows the country what they can vote for, not just what they should vote against,” she added.

Starmer also took questions from delegates after his speech, including one question from Unite delegate and bus driver Taj Salam.

“Unite has won 64 bus strikes in the last year after profitable employers initially refused to pay decent pay rises ,” Taj told Starmer.

“Do you agree that when profitable employers — with ability to pay — try to impose pay cuts on workers, those workers are right to take industrial action?” he asked.

Starmer responded by thanking Taj and other bus drivers for all the work they’ve done especially during the pandemic.

He hailed Unite’s “incredible record” of winning for members through strikes and negotiations to secure better pay.

“And quite right too,” he said. “We have to understand the suffering of so many people whose wages have not gone up for a very long time and prices are going through the roof and they can’t make ends meet.”

“That is why that action is taken and that is the role of trade unions to take on that action, and I support the right to strike,” he added in response to Taj’s question.

Starmer continued by saying that a future Labour government will work with metro mayors including Andy Burnham in Manchester, Steve Rotherham in Liverpool and Tracy Brabin in West Yorkshire among others to introduce locally controlled, more affordable bus services.

“I think that’s the kind of thing that an incoming Labour government can absolutely push forward, not just where we’ve got Metro mayors but across the whole of the country,” he added.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas

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