Tuesday 12 September 2017 / 2:20 PM 2017 Press Archive / The Latest from Labour

Jeremy Corbyn speech at TUC Congress

Jeremy
Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party
, speaking at the TUC
Congress in Brighton, said:

Congress,
thank you for that welcome and thank you for everything you do as a movement, for
our people and our country, to secure better pay and conditions for working
people, to give them a voice in the workplace and a say in our politics.

Trade
unions are far and away the biggest voluntary and democratic organisations in
the country. They are the roots and the lifeblood of our party. You are abused
by the powerful and your rights are attacked -including by this government –
but the trade union movement represents the best of Britain and is a vital
engine of progress in our democracy.

And
of course Trade Unionism has always had international solidarity at its heart.
And it’s great to see Huber Ballesteros who was unjustly imprisoned for his
trade union activity in Columbia and freed by international solidarity action,
with us here today.

But
despite all of your tireless efforts, modern Britain is marked by growing
insecurity at work which undermines and holds back both low waged workers and
the better paid.

In
fact insecurity now goes right to the very top of public life – just ask
Theresa May.

But
Congress, this escalating insecurity is not only bad for individual workers and
their families as it weakens bargaining strength and holds down pay, just as it
fuels stress and powerlessness it is also bad for our economy and for our whole
society.

This
epidemic of low pay, which is closely tied up with insecurity at work ruins
people’s lives, leaving workers and their families locked in poverty. It
damages the economy as people have less to spend. It costs us all because it
means more paid in tax credits and housing benefit from the public purse and it
means less tax being paid to fund public services.

So
I want to pay tribute to those unions which are working so hard to organise
insecure workers and have taken on the exploiters – as Unite has done at
SportsDirect and the Bakers’ Union has done so impressively last week at
McDonald’s.

McDonald’s
boss is paid 1,300 times more than the lowest paid of his staff, symbolic of
the deep inequality and injustice that scars our society.

That’s
why it’s crucial for our movement to organise the lowest paid and most
vulnerable workers.

The
TUC needs to represent all workers. And the least secure have to be our
priority because they need our solidarity most. Their needs for representation
are the greatest.

Last
week I raised some of these cases at Prime Minister’s Questions and Theresa
May, Theresa May could not bring herself to utter one word of condemnation of
McDonald’s or SportsDirect. This from the Prime Minister who tried to rebrand
the Conservatives as the ‘workers’ party’. No, I didn’t buy it either.

It’s
essential we work together as a movement; trade unions and the Labour Party, as
part of local communities, to stamp out low pay and insecurity.

And
I know it’s not easy I was once a trade union worker representing low paid
garment workers, mostly women; victims of some appalling practices by
unscrupulous employers.

Exploitation
and discrimination at work cuts across all sectors and pay grades and that’s why
Unison’s victory against Tribunal fees in the High Court was such an
outstanding gain won on behalf of all workers. Rights mean almost nothing if
you can’t afford to get access to them.

And
when the workers who provide the public services we all rely on are having to
use foodbanks, you know that something is deeply wrong.

Seven
years of Tory pay cuts have not only caused real hardship, they have damaged
our public services by hitting recruitment, retention and morale.

The
Government’s position seems to change by the hour. At the weekend, we were led
to believe the pay cap was a thing of the past. Yesterday, the Prime Minister’s
spokesman said it would ‘continue as planned’.

Today,
as inflation rises to nearly 3 per cent, they try to divide people on the
cheap. The POA is right: a pay cut is a pay cut and we must be united in
breaking the pay cap for all workers.

So
let me be absolutely clear today. The Labour Party totally rejects the Tories’
attempt at divide and rule, to play one sector off against another. A Labour
government will end the public sector pay cap and give all workers the pay rise
they deserve and so desperately need.

And,
Congress, in the case of the Birmingham bins workers, which I know you have
discussed today, we, collectively, as the labour and trade union movement, have
a duty as a labour movement to find a resolution to this dispute as soon as
possible.

Congress,
we often talk about workers’ rights but we’re not just talking about rights at
work, we’re talking about people’s lives, about the chance to live a decent
life, about work-life balance; the security of your home, living standards,
your family life and your mental health too.

A
Manchester University study recently found that poor-quality jobs are actually
worse for mental health than unemployment.

Most
people spend most of their lives as workers, selling their time, labour and
skills. Workers’ rights are human rights, they give protections to every single
person in employment and indirectly to many more children and carers, as well
as those who need care.

They
are fundamental to any society that claims to be advanced or democratic and yet
these rights; your rights as workers, hard won over generations, are currently
being sacrificed by this Conservative government on the altar of a failing and
ever more ruthless form of capitalism.

Increasingly
flexible employment is sold to us as a benefit. They call it the gig economy –
and who doesn’t like going to a gig?

And
of course it is a benefit to unscrupulous employers but it is the source of
continuous worry and insecurity for millions of people and is in part
responsible for the worsening mental health of a country that has lost over
6,000 mental health nurses in recent years.

And
when employees want genuine flexible work, TUC researchers found that
shamefully, those parents and carers, often women, requesting flexible working,
all too often found themselves punished instead with fewer hours, fewer
opportunities to progress and even losing their jobs.

So
the next Labour government will take action right across the board to help
protect people in the workplace. And although we would like to see another
general election as soon as possible; that delivers more Labour gains and this
time a Labour government,  in the
meantime we will challenge the government in parliament, and outside, every
step of the way. To defend working people and stand by you, the trade unions,
battling for people’s rights day in and day out.

Rights
are won by all of us together, but they have to be constantly defended and
enforced. And that’s why we are opposing the Tories’ dangerous EU Withdrawal
Bill. Not out of any attempt to frustrate the vote to leave but because of the
extraordinary unaccountable powers it would hand to Tory government ministers
to impose decisions, scrap protections and rip up workers’ rights without
parliament having any say.

That
is a threat to every worker in this country: you simply cannot trust the Tories
with your rights at work, and that’s why Labour voted against the Bill last
night.

There
is no doubt that the British workplace is already one of the most unequal in
the world. We have a huge and damaging imbalance of power between employers and
employees which has led to the proliferation of low wage jobs,
race-to-the-bottom agency working, zero-hours contracts and employers avoiding
paying sick pay, holiday pay and even the minimum wage through bogus
self-employment.

That
has been effectively targeted by unions such as the GMB, fighting for Uber
drivers denied their basic rights at work.

Such
practices are rife throughout the ‘gig economy’ which presents itself as modern
and dynamic but all too often uses technology as a cover to deny both employees
and customers basic protections.

Technological
innovation is crucial for our economic success. But technological advance
cannot represent real progress if it means we are dragged back to 19th century
employment practices or is used to impose deregulation that leaves people
without dignity or security.

Technological
advance is driving change in the economy and the workplace at unprecedented
speeds but what is not inevitable is who benefits from it.

We
need a government and economic and industrial policies that are not stuck in a
1980s time warp of neoliberal dogma but are driven by the need to channel and
shape technological change, to benefit the many not the few.

That
will not happen if we leave it to the market or corporate boardrooms.

The
Bank of England estimates that 15 million jobs could be at risk of automation
over the next decade and as is so often the way those who are most at risk are
those who are paid the least.

The
deregulated gig economy is ripe for automation. It is no basis for economic
advance and rising living standards. No, that demands high investment in the
cutting edge jobs of the future.

When
you add the Conservatives’ continuing determination to hack away at the state
cutting investment, squeezing public services, and removing your rights. It’s
not hard to see the dangers of our present course.

We
already know that the Tory way of running the economy has dramatically widened
regional inequalities, sharply increased the wealth gap, with tax breaks for the
few and public services cuts for the many.

And
the Tory approach to Brexit is to use the process of leaving to go much
further, much faster in that direction and deliver a deregulated, free market
tax haven, off the shores of Europe, underpinned with a race to the bottom
trade deal with Donald Trump, a Shangri La for bosses and bankers. But nothing
of the kind for everybody else.

Because
that is the real divide over Brexit, a Tory Brexit to drive down standards or a
Labour Brexit that puts jobs first.  

Labour
respects the referendum result. But we want a jobs-first Brexit, which
guarantees full access to the European single market as part of a new trade
agreement and relationship with the EU which maintains and develops workers’
rights, and consumer and environmental protections and uses powers returned
from Brussels to support a new industrial strategy, with investment in good
jobs in every region and nation of Britain, where work pays, where employees
have security and decent conditions and prosperity is shared by the true wealth
creators: the workforce.

When
we leave the EU the current free movement rules will end. Labour wants to see
fair rules and management of migration, fair rules that put jobs, living
standards and the economy first, not fake immigration targets, as the Tories
do, that will never be met.

And
we will continue to assert that the rights of EU nationals must be guaranteed.

We
must never let ourselves be duped and divided. It isn’t migrants who drive down
wages and conditions but unscrupulous employers, supported by a government that
slashes rights and protections at work whenever it gets the chance.

It
is our movement that has been the bedrock of resisting racism and fascism in
the workplace and on the streets and we must continue to oppose the division of
the far right.

So
if we want to tackle low pay and insecure work we need a Labour government
strengthening workers’ rights, enforced by strong trade unions, taking action
to prevent employers undercutting pay and conditions, not closed borders,
xenophobic intimidation and scapegoating.

That’s
why our General Election manifesto set out a 20 point plan for security and
equality at work, including: equal rights for all from day one in a job, banning
zero hours contracts, guaranteeing unions a right to access workplaces, raising
the minimum wage to a real living wage, ending the public sector pay cap, setting
maximum pay ratios of 20 to 1 in the public sector and beyond, banning unpaid
internships, doubling paternity pay, reinstating protection against harassment
at work and supporting the Dying
to Work campaign to protect workers with terminal illnesses.

But
ultimately protections at work depend on those who work themselves.

Winning
a Labour government, even one with a programme to transform the country, which
is now our goal, is simply not enough.

That
is why the most important thing any worker can do is to join a trade union.

And
I want young people especially to hear this message.

Many
young people have recently got involved in politics for the first time. Tens of
thousands of young people have joined the Labour Party in recent months.

And
at the recent General Election we saw the long running decline in young people
voting reversed, with young people voting in higher numbers than they have for
a generation.

Politics
is about power and democratic politics is about putting power in the hands of
the many not just the few.

That
principle applies in the workplace too. if you want a job that pays a decent
wage, gives you the chance to get on in life, live independently and enjoy your
work, then join a trade union. Do it today.

Trade
unions are often demonised in the right-wing press. I know it’s a shock that
billionaire tax dodging press barons don’t like trade unions. And they don’t
like us because our movement, through which the values of solidarity, community
and social justice run like a thread from top to bottom, our movement
challenges unaccountable power of both government and bosses.

But
of course the power of the billionaires, who control great chunks of the media,
isn’t what it was. They tried to dictate the election result in June with a
blizzard of propaganda and millions of voters simply ignored them.

Trade
unions don’t just defend their members, they defend the institutions that
benefit all employees, our NHS, our schools, our social care, and they defend
our rights.

We
don’t know when the next election will come. We are not in control of that but
you are in control of whether you join a trade union, organise in your
workplace or in your community and start changing people’s lives for the better
right now.

We
don’t know how long it will take but this weak and chaotic government will be prised out of Downing
Street. And we know that the advances we made in the general election in June
are a powerful springboard to win the radical Labour government we want to see
so that together we can change our country so it truly works for the many not
the few.

Ends