As Leader I am proud of the link between trade unions and the Labour Party – it is not just an historic link, it’s what makes Labour.
We win when we’re in touch with the needs and the concerns of millions of working people and their families – the people trade unions represent.
Before being elected to Parliament I worked as a trade union official, with garment workers who were owed back pay by unscrupulous employers and with public sector workers fighting to protect their jobs and services, and low paid women fighting for equal pay. I know how much harder it is now today for the trade union representatives – with the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe, which are about to get even more restrictive.
The best guarantee of decent pay is a strong trade union in every workplace – and some of the worst examples of low pay and job insecurity are to be found in the private sector, where trade union membership is just 14%.
UK company profitability is at record levels. But without unions, any increase in returns only gets shared in the boardrooms and between shareholders.
When Labour leader John Smith addressed the TUC in 1993 he set out a ‘Charter for Employment Rights’ to:
“Give all working people basic rights that will come into force from the first day of their employment. We will give the same legal rights to every worker, part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent.
“We will give every working man and woman the right to protection against unfair dismissal, and access to health and safety protection. And every worker will have the right to join a trade union and have the right to union recognition.”
That vision is being brought back into the heart of Labour. Our shadow minister for trade unions and civil society Ian Lavery MP, a former NUM President, is starting work on a new commission into workplace rights for 2020. We will want your input and engagement in that process, launching later this year.
Labour has a mountain to climb to win in 2020 and tough elections this May. To succeed we have to become a social movement again – campaigning together in every community for our shared goals.