Speech to “Hard Up Festival” rally, Birmingham

Today, the people of Birmingham and the Midlands have said no to austerity. You have told the Coalition Government to stop attacking the living standards of your family, and your community.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, tells us “that we’re all in this together”. He wants us to think that everyone is suffering from the austerity policies.

It’s true that the majority of people are suffering – the real value of wages has fallen by 7.6% in the last five years.

But that’s just for people like you. George Osborne and his rich friends aren’t losing a penny.

They don’t rely upon wages and benefits. They have property, bonds, shares and funds to keep them rich.

Austerity is just another word for taking from the workers and giving to the wealthy.

What this country needs is investment in our economy and public services. We want to see a recovery which creates jobs – a recovery which raises wages and benefits.

So far, the Coalition Government, has created a recovery which boost the profits, dividends, profits and bonuses for the City of London. There is no cost-of-living crisis in the Square Mile.

For you, the recovery means zero-hour contracts or fake self-employment.  It means rising rents, or growing mortgage debts.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are alternatives to austerity – despite what the pundits say.

Of course, to get a different policy you have got to get a different government. The Coalition Government will die convinced that austerity is the right way.

I think we should get a Labour Government in May 2015, as the start of a better policy.

But we cannot accept that a Labour Government should continue with Coalition spending targets and policies. No, with a new government we want a different policy.

The Labour leadership has said that the Coalition’s economic policies are a failure and that they have created a cost-of-living crisis. I agree with that.

But, it’s not then credible to say that you are against a policy, yet you are going to be bound by that policy. That’s just a recipe for disappointment and despair.

We want a Labour Government that recognises that the unemployed need jobs – that the homeless need houses – and that the country needs a pay rise.

These can be achieved if the government:

* invests in building houses

* renews the transport infrastructure

* saves the NHS from privatisation

* revives our public services.

The CWU also has some demands for the industries we organise in.  We want to see the Labour Government guarantee access to high speed broadband for all.  And we want Royal Mail to be re-nationalised.

If the Labour Government invests in these policies – then the economy will grow, living standards will rise – and tax revenues will increase to government.

That means the public spending deficit disappears under the rising prosperity.

This is a better way to address the economic stagnation. By putting capital and people to work, a Labour Government can improve the lives of the vast majority of people in this country.

This is much better than worrying about what city bankers and investors think. Those people only think of themselves and their wealth.  They are the privileged few.  They must not be allowed to dictate government policy.

The best counter to the privileged few is the organisation of the many.

Today’s Festival is representative of the majority opinion of people in the Midlands and elsewhere.

Coming today is a good start. But if you want a better future, you have to keep fighting.

You must also join the TUC’s demonstration on October 18th.  That day many thousands of people will be saying “Britain needs a pay rise”.

Whatever the government in power, you get a better deal if you, and your community, stand up for your rights and needs.

By your activity you can shape the future – not let others determine what’s to become of you.

So take things further. After today, if you are not in the union, join one. If you are in a union, stand for election and take responsibility.

What you do matters.

The rich and powerful want you to leave politics to the professional politicians. The rich and powerful want to convince you that nothing can be changed.

But the secret they know is that people like you are capable of turning the world upside down.

Austerity is not our fate. We can overturn it – if we push together in united activity. So keep fighting and organising. Together we will win.

Thanks for listening

Posted in Speeches |

Speech to CWU Women’s Conference, Leeds

As always, it is a great privilege to address CWU Women’s Conference. Your expertise strengthens the union’s work in representing CWU women members. In so doing, you make the whole union stronger.

But these are difficult times for the working class and the poor.  The Coalition Government continues to pursue its austerity policy.  This is regardless of its failure by its own measures.

We were told that the public spending deficit would be closed within this Parliament. Instead, the target has been revised to adapt to Osborne’s failures.

So we have ended up facing nine planned years of fiscal austerity. We’re halfway through this program – yet we have around half of the pain still to come.

The main techniques used  have been to increase the contribution from those dependent upon wages and benefits.  Or, in other words a transfer of wealth from the working class to the rich.

By 2018/19 :

*£10.7bn extra VAT will be paid

*£30.7bn will be cut from spending departments like Education and Health

*£25.1bn will be cut from Social Security

All of these policies bear heavily upon the working class. All of these bear down disproportionately upon women. Yvette Cooper had estimated that so far woman had borne nearly 75 percent of the cuts. Presumably women will continue to be disproportionately disadvantaged for some time yet.

That is why we must not accept Tory spending plans from the incoming Labour government.

We want to see government money used to fund new jobs, new services and new infrastructure to our society. That means investment.

We need an expansion of the economy which will raise wages and benefits. This is the alternative to austerity.

The City of London may not like it. But we need a Labour government that will stand up for everyday people.  We want a Prime Minister, who can tell the obscenely wealthy to pipe down, while Britain gets the pay rise it needs.

I hope you will join with me on the TUC Demonstration on October 18th to insist upon fair play on pay and benefits.

Now, austerity is making all our social problems worse. For example, you cannot address domestic violence with an austerity policy.

Women’s Aid report that since 2010, 17 percent of specialist refuges have closed.

This is in large part due to local authority cuts. It was also partly due to the competitive tendering process, which focus’s on low cost rather than providing a  quality service.

But the women who require these refuges are being turned away. Women’s Aid has launched a campaign “SOS: Save Refuges, Save Lives”.

We must support this – but it is obvious that quality refuges need to be available to all the women that require them.

What is true of domestic violence will also be true of other women’s needs.

Incomes are being cut by inflation, wage and benefit freezes and cuts in housing benefit.

Shelter has just published research which shows that 900,000 working parents have been skipping a meal to pay for housing costs.

3.1 million working parents had to cut back on the amount they spend on food.

Nothing can justify such a situation. But the source is very clear-incomes for millions of people are being cut.

According to the Fawcett Society, one in four of all female workers are now classified as on low pay.

Of these women, 10 percent were forced to take payday loans – and one in 12 are using food banks.

Nor is it surprising that in austerity Britain, the full-time gender pay gap has increased to 15.7% in 2013, up from 14 .8% the previous year.   This means a loss for women full-time workers of £5000 a year.

The House of Commons library material estimates that equal pay for women is 60 years away.  This will place it 100 years away from the promise of Equal Pay in Labour’s Equal Pay Act of 1970.

Before returning to internal union matters, there is one other issue upon which I want to touch.

We’ve all been horrified by the terrible abuse of girls and young women in Rotherham.  Such criminal activity must be punished.  Equally  those in positions of responsibility who failed to act should lose their jobs.

What is true for Rotherham is also true of the Jimmy Saville scandal, and similar instances of criminal abuse covered up by authority.

We certainly must reject any attempts to suggest that these problems arise from only one community. Unfortunately it happens in all communities.

But prevention is always better. That’s why we must support the initiative to make Sex and Relationship Education compulsory in all schools.

This is a campaign led by the End Violence Against Women coalition, the Everyday Sexism Project and supported by the Fawcett Society.

The aim is that such education will also address issues of sexual consent and respectful relationships. It will doubtless make a contribution to averting the type scandals we have witnessed.

It will also, I believe, help to change the atmosphere whereby 84,000 rapes are committed in England and Wales every year.

Now, these are incredibly difficult times. How is our union measuring up?

Since the last CWU Women’s Conference, we have had the first real ways to measure our initiatives on proportionality.

Many of you will have been at the Branch Forum in London, early this year. Clearly that was a successful meeting, which demonstrated overwhelming support from branch activists for the initiative.

Annual Conference in April also demonstrated this. The NEC was given direction by 17 motions and rules which addressed proportionality and were carried by branches attending conference.

The NEC is working through these

Rule changes have been implemented and bear upon your branches immediate work.

These include:

  • the establishment of a Woman’s Officer and a BAME Officer, as part of your branch officer compliment
  • the obligation of your branch to allocate sufficient funds to ensure branch representation at Equality Conferences and events.

The NEC itself is directed to take measures, including:

  • prepare a report for next year’s conference on branches failing to attend Equality conferences
  • carry out a complete review of the equalities structures
  • bring forward a rule to conference to ensure that at least one regional officer in the compliment of three is a woman.

These are a few of the decisions of our last annual conference. We certainly had a breakthrough on policy.

But the composition of Conference brought more mixed results.

Women in attendance rose to 17.8% , about one percent up on the previous year and closer to the figure of 19% of women’s membership.

The BAME representation went down by half a percent to 6.6% – still well short of estimated BAME membership of around 14%.

However, I want to reassure you that the NEC is completely committed to pursuing this policy.

One expression of this is the growing co-ordination between the Advisory Committees and the Industrial Executives.

We have continued with the branch visits by Trish Lavelle, Linda Roy and myself. In addition, we are looking to promote greater coordination at a regional level. We are carrying through an initiative with women members in Northern Ireland.

Overall, I’m confident, that with your help and leadership, we will transform the union’s representative structure in favour of women and BAME members.

Good luck with your debates today. Keep up your important work.  Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech notes: Political Fund ballot meeting, Glasgow

  • Thank all members in Scotland for their contribution to the debate on independence.  Both sides of the debate created one of the most extraordinary political campaigns in our common history.  The discussion was extremely well informed.  The excitement of the campaign lead to such a wonderful turn out.
  • The mobilisation of the people of Scotland around this campaign has changed our politics forever.  No one can suggest that people are not interested in politics – or that political decisions don’t matter.  Scotland has shaken up the entire political establishment of the UK, and that is good news for the whole of our society.
  • I want to thank all the CWU activists and branches in Scotland who took part in the campaign.  Both sides of the divide served the interest of the whole membership by making this issue a focus for branch discussion and activity.
  • Obviously, there is now a premium on working together on issues where we have a single, un-contentious policy.  I am confident that the branches in Scotland will now turn around the serious purpose of winning the retention of the political fund ballot.
  • Other unions are getting very positive “yes” votes – notably Unite and GMB. In the history of the legislation every union which has a political fund has secured retention. Let’s make sure the CWU keeps up the record.  We won the ballot in ’84, ’94 and 2004.  Four in a row is our aim.
  • We can argue that it’s pointless to keep having these ballots. We have postponed discussions with the Labour leadership on repealing the elements of legislation that compel us to have the vote every 10 years.
  • In the past there were discussions on either ending the obligation, or allowing unions to get the expenditure repaid.  Certainly we will want to raise this again with an incoming Labour Government.
  • In the meantime, politics continues to condition the work of the union.
  • Parliamentary legislation determines the working of the major industries in which we organise. Parliamentary legislation conditions the general terms of employment.
  • Parliamentary legislation conditions the way in which we are able to organise as a trade union.
  • Politics won’t leave us alone – even if we choose to opt out of political activity. A “no” vote will not remove the impact of politics upon our union. A “no” vote accepts that other people will impose their politics upon our working lives.
  • Many of our members will be unclear about whether voting “yes” is voting for the union’s involvement in the Labour Party.  We must make clear that it is not.
  • This is about retaining a political fund which can subsequently be directed towards the causes that our members decide as appropriate.
  • First, we must vote to retain the fund. We will have the result by the 30th of October.
  • If we retain it, then we will address the issue of the Labour Party. Annual Conference accepted the NEC’s commitment that every levy payer will be personally approached with the opportunity to sign up to authorise donations to the Party.
  • This exercise will take place between January 2015, and the General Election.
  • Only those members who positively agree will have their money spent towards Labour. Those members who do not sign up will have no money from their subs spent on Labour Party activity.
  • This is in-line with the new rules of the Labour Party. It will mean that we have to set up a division within the political fund between affiliated and non-affiliated levy payers.
  • We are still working on the details, but the basic idea should be clear.
  • We don’t want to get distracted with this. But it is important that you, the branch activists, understand how we are addressing the question of the Labour link. Many of our members will have followed the media coverage on the Collins Review.
  • They may well question you, so hopefully you will be to reassure them that they will get to make a separate, individual decision on the funding of Labour
  • This is not the key debate. The key remains the fact that the union needs to engage in political activity. It would be a weaker organisation without the fund.  Instead of shaping our future, we would be shaped by others.
  • The political fund ballot is an opportunity to renew the outlook of our union. To get a “yes” vote depends upon every branch devoting some time to have a dialogue with branch members.  Many of your members will not have ever taken part in a political fund before.
  • You will have to explain many basic ideas, but you will be winning them to the union’s policy for a long time to come.
  • Your work lays the basis for our shared success.  The NEC is confident that we can win the vote – make sure your branch delivers it.

Posted in Speeches |

Speech to Network Gender Project

Firstly, welcome to CWU Headquarters.  I hope you are able to work in comfort here.

The CWU is very supportive of co-operation amongst European trade unionists. There is much that we can learn from each other.

The CWU is also particularly supportive of the Network Gender Project. We recognise that austerity policies in the EU are having a very serious impact upon women in the workplace, community and in the home.

Your study will help us in addressing the problems women are facing in Britain.

Judging by the Project Manual your study appears to have three themes:

  • the impact austerity is having upon women in the labour market
  • the possibilities for using collective bargaining to address the hurdles women face
  • and the concrete position of women in the trade unions.

These are clearly important questions to study if we are to establish a progressive alternative.

I would like to say a few words about the position of women in the labour market -and the position of women in the CWU.

The position of women in the British labour market has deteriorated under the impact of austerity.

Record numbers of women are now in employment – this continues a decades’ long trend.

Yet, women are still disadvantaged – a record number of women do not have a job, with nearly 1 million women unable to find work.

A further 826,000 women have been forced to take low-paid work, or zero hour contracts, in the past 6 years.

In total, 3 million women are classified as being on low pay. That is nearly 1 in 4 of all female workers.

One in eight women are on zero hour contracts.

This promotion of poverty amongst working women has resulted in one in 12 mothers in low-paid jobs being forced to visit a food bank.

Another striking development has been a big growth in self-employment amongst women.  Our Coalition Government presents this as a growth of entrepreneurialism amongst women.

In fact, nearly 50 percent of all-new self-employed are over the age of 50. And the average wage of the self-employed is less than half that of employees.

The self-employed do not receive sick pay, holiday pay or any employer contributions to their pensions.

Far from being a positive stimulus to the economy, this growth in self-employment is often a desperate attempt by working people to make ends meet in a completely insecure labour market.

This work is often low tech and with extended working hours.  The majority of those newly self-employed have been women.

This is just a little of the recent evidence of the impact austerity is having upon women in the labour market.

In the face of this deepening disadvantage for women, how are they placed in the CWU?

The CWU organises in a workforce inside the communication sector where men currently predominate.

The most recent figures we have indicate that amongst postal and courier employees, women make up 20 percent of the workforce.

Amongst telecoms employees, women make up 29.6 percent of the workforce.

For the whole combined sector, women make up 24.5 percent of the workforce.

I must stress that these figures are a little out of date, and the proportion of women is likely to have increased.

Of the CWU’s current membership nearly 19 percent are women.

Although we do not have complete figures, we estimate that nearly 16 percent of our members are from black and ethnic minorities.

From amongst our total membership, nearly 22 percent are part time workers.

As each year goes by our membership has become more diverse.  Yet we recognise that our leadership, at both national and local levels, does not reflect this growing diversity.

We recognise that in order to survive and flourish the union must adapt to the changing composition of the workforce.

It is for that reason that in recent years we have been undertaking a major initiative to establish more proportionately in the leadership at both branch and national levels.

This has involved some serious differences amongst activists. But through a process of extensive dialogue between the national leadership and branches we have secured the support of the overwhelming majority of activists.

For the most part now, local and national leaders know that we must put in place policies, procedures and rules which ensure that women and black members achieve a greater proportion of leading positions.

We have some way to go yet, and I must stress that we are addressing a substantial problem.  This is not an issue which is desirable, but not essential to solve.

On the contrary, this is a weakness which has been holding us back, and making our work in the workplace more difficult.

That said, I am optimistic that the progress we are making demonstrates the certainty that we will achieve a more proportionate, representative and strong union.

The work of your project is of great interest in our efforts to improve the representation of our women members.

I wish you every success in your deliberations today.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches |

TUC 2014: Speech on Motion 77 “TUC disputes procedure”

The subject of the TUC disputes procedure appears very remote from our daily concerns. In reality, it refers to one of the most vital themes of our movement – the relationship between unions.

When these relationships operate co-operatively and well, we become a force capable of making major changes to our members’ lives and in our society. When the relationship becomes conflicted, then our movement loses power and we become spectators in events we should influence.

The dispute procedure, also known as the Bridlington Agreement, was first established in 1939.

Because we rarely see completely clear lines of occupational divide between, or within industries, there are many potential points of conflict in our recruitment drives.

Since 1939, the TUC has responded to changes in practice – the issue of single union agreements being a notable example of this.

Equally, the code was adapted to take into account the changes under the 1992 Employment Act covering the limits on exclusion or expulsion from unions.

Today, we see the deregulation of many utilities. At the same time, we see convergence between industries through new technology. These two changes are creating challenges to the demarcation in organisations that we’ve been working with.

For these reasons, the CWU is convinced it’s time to review the disputes procedures.

There are also existing procedures which really do warrant a fresh look.

At present, no case coming before the dispute procedure results in precedent being set.  Each case stands as unique. Obviously this is not a realistic approach.

Or take the fact that there can be no joint case between unions bringing a common complaint against a third. That is even if these cases involve the same company.

Whatever the difficulties of reviewing these procedures, we believe it is necessary to do so. It is part of keeping unions abreast of the changing world of work.

This need not be contentious – we’re confident that we can update procedures in line with our new needs.

I move.

Motion 77:

Congress recognises that clear and constructive arrangements for relations between affiliates are essential to optimise the efficient and effective working of the trade union movement.  Congress recognises the important role the TUC Disputes Procedures has played in this regard.

However, Congress is concerned that there are worrying signs that some of the discredited practices that affected our movement as recently as the 1980s are beginning to reappear, with some unions being unable or unwilling to respect the spirit or the letter of certain parts of the Procedures.

Congress agrees that the clarity of the meaning and application of the Disputes Procedures is of the utmost assistance in helping all affiliates to abide by this common set of values.  It therefore agrees that the Disputes Procedures shall be reviewed to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose in the current challenging circumstances.

Posted in Conferences, Speeches |

TUC 2014: Speech to Palestine Solidarity Campaign fringe meeting

Let me start by thanking the PSC for organising today’s meeting.  This is a useful setting of the scene for the discussion tomorrow when Congress debates the General Council statement.

I think the General Council statement is very positive. It is very practical in tone. It is also further evidence of how support for the Palestinians has become the stable stance for British trade unions.

Certainly the events  of recent months show why solidarity with the Palestinians is an essential part of our work.

We have seen wars upon Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014. All waged upon a people held under siege since 2006.

We have seen the collapse of peace talks, despite the apparent commitment of John Kerry and the US administration.  Talks which date back to the signing of the Oslo Agreement in 1993.

The source of the problem is clear. The Israeli government continues to regard Palestinian rights as something that can be lightly set aside.

Unfortunately, the US government, the EU and UK government all demur to this, much too often.  The role of the international solidarity movement is to press these governments.

In the past weeks we have heard commentators and politicians continually state that “Israel has the right to defend itself”.  Very rarely do they suggest that Palestine might have some rights too.

What the Israeli government does not have is:

  • the right to steal Palestinian lands
  • the right to imprison elected representatives
  • the right to bomb refugee camps
  • the right to besiege and intimidate a whole nation

And the obvious rejoiner to “Israel has the right to defend itself” is that Palestinians have that right too.

But we cannot get progress by deepening the conflict.  The ceasefire is welcome but it must be a precursor to the lifting of the siege, and a just peace for the Palestinians.

The war this summer has been very distressing.  But at least we have seen a big expansion of the international opposition. The sight of big solidarity demonstrations throughout the world has been encouraging.

In Britain, the excellent work of the PSC and its allies, has resulted in huge national demonstrations and many, many local events.

I think the reason the Coalition Government initiated a review of arms sales to Israel with the result is this growing opposition.

Cameron decided to continue the sales anyway.  But don’t miss the significance of this – the British government and Foreign Office are vulnerable to organised lobbying against arms sales to Israel.  Clearly this must become a priority for the whole movement.

Practical work has to be the priority now.  For our part, the CWU will continue to promote the work of the PSC.  We are encouraging our branches and regions to affiliate.

We will be taking part in the TUC delegation to Gaza.  We have opened direct relations with Palestinian unions in the communications sector.

Union representatives from the Palestinian telecoms company, Jawwal and from the Palestinian Postal Service will be attending CWU conference next year.

Despite the terrible difficulties, the Palestinians refuse to give up.  Neither should we.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Conferences, Speeches |

TUC 2014: Speech to move Motion 72

“Trade unions in the media”

The motion is simple.  The CWU is seeking a report for next year’s Congress on the exclusion of trade unions from the media.

Our aim is quite broad. We want to highlight the fact that Britain’s largest voluntary organisations, and largest social movement, is routinely deleted from important areas of public life.

We want to start with a study of the media because unions are doubly disadvantaged there.

Firstly, the portrayal of unions is, almost invariably, unfavourable and unbalanced.

Secondly, despite the social weight of unions, they are not given the same opportunities as employers, or interested individuals.

But, we are in no doubt that there is almost no recognition of our actual contribution to national life. There are almost no statues, and almost no blue plaques.

Yet a large proportion of the working population has had some direct involvement in labour market struggles since the end of the eighteenth century.

This history finds little expression in the media either. Where are the documentaries and the popular series about the ceaseless work of many selfless and courageous people?

Our children learn nothing in school about the organisations that they may join someday.  These are organisations which are very likely to involve their direct relatives, living and dead.

There is nothing in the national curriculum.

This excision teaches children that they, and their relatives, do not figure in our society or history.

For too long, we in the unions have taken for granted that the media will be against us. We assume that is the case from both the privately-owned and the public broadcasters.

This is true.  But isn’t it time we organised ourselves to change this?

It is some consolation that there is a democratic element to the new social media.

It is pleasing to see unions using the new channels to convey a message and organise support.

But we mustn’t give up on the traditional forms of media. Fighting for fair representation is fighting for a fairer society.

The elementary requirement for balance is being ignored by broadcasters when it comes to unions. They too take it for granted that the union voice is not a legitimate one in the public arena.

This is not a straightforward complaint about the disappearance of industrial correspondents – although that is significant.

It is also about the assumption that opinion and commentary is the prerogative of politicians, business people, columnists and comedians.

Since 2010, there have only been 9 appearances by Trade Union leaders on 178 episodes of Question Time. During the same period, right wing journalist Peter Hitchens has appeared 8 times, and former Sun Editor, Kelvin McKenzie 7 times.

There is no reason why trade unions should not be able to offer our perspective on current affairs, newspaper media coverage, political and social debates.

But the TV and radio studios are dominated by a rotating number of people drawn from amongst a small professional elite.

This is neither representative nor democratic. We need to stand up to it.

We want the TUC to work with academics and sympathetic broadcasters to measure and analyse the problem. Let’s examine the outlines of exclusion in order to start lobbying against it.

I move.

Motion 72:

That this Congress agrees that Trade Unions continue to be the biggest social movement within the UK.

Congress is concerned at the apparent marginalisation of unions within the media and wider society.

Congress is to establish as study group to examine and test if Trade Unions are underrepresented within the media.

A report on this to be presented on this at Congress 2015.

Posted in Conferences, Speeches |

TUC 2014: Speech to Unite Against Fascism fringe meeting

The CWU is proud to be one of the founding unions of Unite Against Fascism. In continuity with our commitment to the campaign, the union is now providing office space for UAF.

The reason the CWU has been such a staunch supporter of UAF is because it has worked. Since the campaign was launched the BNP has effectively been defeated, and the EDL seriously weakened.

In the European elections earlier this year we saw the endpoint of the BNP’s collapse, when they lost their final MEP.

In our view, this has been because the UAF has employed the right tactics.  That is:

  • highlighting that the BNP is a fascist party;
  • uniting with all communities, organisations and individuals who oppose fascism;
  • promoting and defending multi-culturalism as the alternative to racism.

This has allowed the UAF to make a big contribution to the broad-based movement against the BNP.

It is important to register our success.

But the general political situation in Britain and the EU is very difficult. The austerity policies being promoted, inside and outside the euro zone, are driving down living standards.

Governments are not confronting the powerful, wealthy people who create the economic crisis. Instead, the cost of the recession is being paid for by working people and the unemployed.

If there is no prospect of raising living standards then people search for those responsible. The establishment is encouraging racism to divert attention from its own misdeeds.  Muslims are particularly been made scapegoats.

UKIP’s growth is a product of this process. It may not be a fascist party – but it is certainly racist, and it has hoovered up BNP votes and some ex-BNP members.

We need new tactics – simple anti-fascism will not work with the non-fascist but racist party.

For UKIP, the key issue is immigration. They are against the EU.  But it’s hard to demonstrate a negative presence from the EU.  So they use the free movement of labour in the EU as a means to highlight their opposition.

UKIP are only successful in this because of the cowardice of mainstream parties on the issue of immigration.

All the evidence is that migrants bring with them vital skills and capital to our country.

The opposition to migrants is based on fear of the foreigner, or the unknown. Obviously the far right – fascist and racist – played this up to win support for their parties.

Instead of facing this down, mainstream politicians find it handy to bend towards it.

So you see the Tories promising – yet failing – to get immigration below 100,000 a year before the General Election.

Banning immigration makes no economic sense unless you also ban emigration from the country. No politicians proposing to discuss that, let alone consider doing it.

Hence this ridiculous habit of hysterical anti-migrant campaigns – and complete silence when British citizens migrate.

The current narrow narrative is incoherent and racist. It is vital that all anti-racists fight against it.  That is why the Stand Up to Racism initiative by the UAF is so much needed now.

This year, in March, the CWU joined in supporting the UN’s Anti-Racism Day. The event in Trafalgar Square was very successful – next year we must make it bigger again.

A racist atmosphere is also being orchestrated in response to the terrible abuse of young women and girls in Rotherham.

At the heart of this is a failure to recognise the rights of women and girls – there remains widespread misogyny in our society.

This is overlaid with the refusal to respect the rights and needs of children.

But this is a problem within every community – not just the Muslim community.
Criminality and paedophilia exists in every community.

Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Rolf Harris, the Christian orphan homes in Northern Ireland, North Wales and elsewhere – these are all cases of widespread abuse-covered up by those with power.

And we await the report on the abuse of boys by Tory ministers during Thatcher’s government.

So we must condemn the attempts of the EDL to whip up racism, Support the demonstration against them in Rotherham on 13th September.

In the coming period we need, as much as ever, to oppose racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and fascism.

UAF has made a vital contribution and needs our continued support.

Thanks for listening.

Posted in Conferences, Speeches |

TUC 2014: Speec to Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD) fringe meeting

I welcome the decision of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, in recent years, to organise a fringe at the TUC. Some may suggest it is inappropriate as not all of the unions attending are affiliated.

But the discussion that CLPD poses is a question of the strategic orientation of the labour and trade union movement.

Perhaps Congress delegates hostile to Labour may attend these debates and see how concretely the affiliated unions can co-ordinate their work inside Labour. It also allows us to illustrate the alliance that unions have with the centre-left inside the Constituency Labour Parties.

These are good, strong, political reasons to have this meeting today.

The CWU is affiliated to CLPD, and we are proud to sponsor its work.

Now, I want to briefly talk about two issues – the question of the incoming Labour Government’s economic policy; and the question of the future of union/party relations.

On economic policy, the CWU does not accept the suggestion that austerity is the right policy for the next government. We believe that an incoming Labour Government should not seek to meet, or surpass, the public spending targets that the Coalition Government is proposing.

Austerity is a method of transferring value from the poorer parts of society to the richer.  Since 2010, the living standards of those on benefits, in low or medium paid work, have all declined.

Those on higher incomes have risen, indeed, the richer you are, the greater the proportionate gain has been. Austerity is unjust and ineffective in developing the economy.

The rich are not investing their profits.  On the contrary, there are huge amounts of idle capital which is simply gaining interest in British banks.

We believe that Labour should be investing in the economy.  It will need to:

  • renew the country’s infrastructure
  • build houses for the estimated 5 million on council waiting lists
  • save the NHS from privatisation
  • and generally stimulate the economy by strengthening public and social services.

A Labour Government can intervene in the economy to expand it. This is the way that Ed Miliband can actually solve the cost of living crisis – by ensuring that we have jobs and wages led recovery.

At present, the emphasis in Labour leadership circles is to be completely defensive on the economy.  We are to show how responsible we are by adhering to Tory spending limits.

These are limits which the Tories are constantly changing, and which Labour has been constantly criticising.

My article in the current CLPD Journal points to a couple of historic occasions which the Labour leadership needs to remember.

Firstly, towards the end of the life of the 1945 Labour Government there was a tremendous row in the Cabinet about military spending. Aneurin Bevan regarding the allocation as over-inflated and was ousted for his opposition.

When the Tories came back into power in 1951, they immediately reduced the allocation in a similar manner to that which Bevan had proposed, in order to spend more on welfare and housing.

Secondly, when Labour came to power in 1997, the leadership insisted upon adhering to the tight spending limits that Kenneth Clarke, the outgoing Tory Chancellor had proposed.

He later admitted that if the Tories had won the election he would not have stuck to those limits.

The lesson being that the Tories know how valuable it is to work flexibly in politics.  In power, we need a Labour Government to demonstrate that it understands that by tearing up Tory spending plans.

Briefly, I want to say something about the future of the union and Labour relations.  At Labour’s Spring Conference we carried the proposals from Ray Collins to move to levy payers having to give personal authorisation for donations to Labour by becoming associate members.

Given the political situation it was necessary to put aside our disquiet about the change.  Now, we have to engage in an intensive campaign to sign up our levy payers to the new procedure.

The CWU is aiming to achieve this between New Year and the General Election.

This is a lot of work for our activists. Making a virtue out of necessity – this is an opportunity to re-politicise our relations with the Party.

Yet, it will not be successful if the party does not address the needs of those who do positively sign up.

Politics is not a spectator sport. Nor can it be the sole prerogative of career politicians.

To be successful and progressive, Labour movement politics have to involve masses of people.  You cannot achieve this if there is no concerted attempt to answer their needs.

To finish, I’m confident that we’ll win a majority Labour Government in 2015.

But we must continue to press for such a government to implement an alternative to austerity and cuts.

In this campaign, I know both the CWU and CLPD will play their part. Thanks for listening.

Posted in Speeches, TUC |

Article for CLPD Labour Party Conference Journal

August 2015

All the signs are that Labour will form a majority government in 2015. Lord Ashcroft’s larger opinion polls all indicate that the Tories and Lib Dems are going to lose a lot of seats to Labour.

David Cameron seems to agree. This realisation forced him into a large Cabinet reshuffle in an attempt to find more presentable faces for the Tories. This was fail, as the faces aren’t the problem, it’s the policies.

This realisation is also dawning upon establishment forces in the media. We can expect many more of the character assassination attempts against Ed Miliband that we’ve witnessed recently. Our opponents will fight dirty because that is their character.

Clearly, there’s a premium on the unity of our movement to secure Labour’s victory.  In these few months before May, we have to concentrate our resources on winning every vote and seat possible.

But, we cannot pretend that all policy debate is resolved. Nor can we avoid continued discussion about the implementation of reforms following Collin’s recommendations being accepted by the Spring Conference.

The decisions of the National Policy Forum have laid the basis for Labour’s manifesto. This is our electoral offer to the British people.  It should be good enough to win in 2015. Yet no one should seriously regard it as a sufficient basis for government until 2020.

After the victory of the Conservatives in the 1951 General Election, there is a famous incident where the new government reduces the anticipated Armed Forces Budget. Churchill pointed out, in Parliament, how this decision of the Tories was in line with the stance of Bevan against the over-inflated military spending plans of the Labour leadership.

Equally, after the 1997 general election, the Labour government held itself to Tory spending limits for the first period of Parliament. Kenneth Clarke, the Tory Chancellor who proposed these limits previously, said that he wouldn’t have stuck to them after the Election.

It is this seam of pragmatism that has allowed the Tories to survive and remain influential. Unfortunately, Labour politicians frequently fail to demonstrate this admirable quality.  Instead, they torment themselves about appearing unpatriotic, or against the armed forces. Currently, the inflexible dogma is to appear more responsible about the economy than the Tories.

An incoming Labour government must assess the economic situation much more flexibly than it is able to do in opposition. The dramatic and continuing cuts in living standards of the majority of people in this country requires serious action from a Labour government. Sticking to Tory spending targets, which in government the Tories would probably ditch, is one-way that an incoming Labour government could make itself deeply unpopular.

Sticking to Tory spending limits and solving the cost-of-living crisis are contradictory policies. We must ensure that a Labour government resolve this in favour of the latter, not the former.

In 2015 the whole constitution of the Party is to be changed by the introduction of “affiliated supporters” from political levy payers. However we view the decisions of the Spring Conference, there is a challenge for all now to show that Labour is relevant to trade union members.

The CWU is intending to offer the chance of becoming an affiliated supporter to every CWU levy payer before the General Election. Such efforts have to be met by the Labour leadership showing a preparedness to respond to trade union concerns.

The agreement at the NPF to establish a Commission on the modern workplace is an important step in that direction. The commission will hopefully lay the basis for a progressive reform of the labour market.  We must move away from systematic insecurity at work. We need workplaces conditioned by respect, equality and rising living standards. This is a challenge which Labour must meet.

Posted in Articles |