Wednesday, 15 April 2015

My Message to Trade Union Members for May 7th.

I have spoken at many factories over the past few months to people on the shop floor about trade union activism and the General Election coming up on May 7th. Here is the speech I have been giving.

You may be asking why I’m taking up your time when there are better things to be doing. Well let’s talk about you and your relationship with both your union and who you’re going to use your precious vote for at the General Election in May.

Ok. You pay your union subs every month but the union is only useful when you need something, you have a grievance, you need a workplace rep, you want a pay rise. You may work in a factory that has a proud percentage of workers in a union.

My history of joining Unite – my union - is different to yours as I am a member of Unite Community. Community is the conception of Len McCluskey. With the birth of Unite Community that opens up membership of the union at 50p pw to people who don’t work in the traditional unionised workplaces, like carers, the disabled, students, self employed, unemployed and retired Unite help out with all travel costs that previously held me back from participation and education. Unite give me self belief and self confidence that I WILL be able to change the political narrative and enter the political arena in the future as the courses provide a toolbox of skills I can use.

This woman is hungry to change the austerity story. This woman demands change!

It is not enough for me to simply speak to you about your union. I need to know what is going on in our workplaces; factories like yours. I am currently doing a workplace reps course because I feel it is vital anyone who claims to want to represent you in Parliament in the future has to have some kind of idea of the issues facing ordinary people like us.

You may have been in the union a long time, you may have recently joined, but each individual is needed and more importantly your input. We can all be guilty of standing back whilst others arrange events, but we need committed trade union activists, people coming from our number to represent us working classes locally and nationally.

I love to see representatives from our communities like local councillors come forward to stand up and fight for us on a range of issues like the bedroom tax, job centre sanctions, foodbanks and low pay. I have the privilege of having met such a councillor recently. He is passionate about social justice and standing up for the most vulnerable in our society. Putting his head above the parapet to represent local people as a councillor on top of his work commitments may be daunting to some, but it epitomises the true working class hero we have on our doorstep. I for one am proud to know him as he puts his energy into his community. We urgently need more like him to shake off our fear and apathy at coming forward.

Even if you can’t play such an active role you can play a huge role within your union. Educate, Agitate and Organise is our motto and that is the only way we really are going to see changes in our workplaces and our communities. There are many educational courses you can take through Unite or your own union, free of charge, to improve your knowledge and skills. I’ve been learning about the sheer power of collective bargaining on my course and this is burned into my soul as the only way the working man/woman can achieve results.

As for the Labour Party and May 2015. Never has there been a time when your vote is so precious and the right choice for not just yourself but working class communities is vital.

I chat to people all the time as a member of Unite Community. All I hear is the plea:
‘ We need MPS who have done a factory job, worked in a supermarket, cared for a disabled relative, shop in our shops, don’t just TRY to look like us but ARE one of us’. Indeed recently an elderly lady complemented me on the dress I was wearing whilst speaking at an event. She had had her eye on the same £14 Matalan dress but felt it was too young for her but added ‘Well at least you’re one of us love and not all fur coat and no knickers like most women MPS’.  I smiled with her. Her view entirely of course but a view echoed in different situations on the doorstep. Walk a mile in our shoes…

Compassionate MPs are needed urgently in our communities. Our working class people have born the brunt of this austerity going into a 5th year in 2015. We are austerity battered, weary, frightened and trying to hang on in there as best we can, often living from week to week on zero hours contracts, and a pay day away from losing our homes. I know this because it’s happening to me too. As my 3rd son started 6th form last September, HMRC already cut to the bone with staff shortages, inadvertently cut all working tax credits from every family in the UK with a child starting college or 6th form that week. It meant an immediate £50 cut in income, a time where every penny counts as you kit your child out and spend money on bus fares, lunches, books for their first week in a new part of their lives. That error made me panic over what to cut down on, alongside all the thousands of other families affected too. These ‘errors’ can tip us over the edge into financial peril; such is our grip on the cliff edge of austerity.

Why I believe you should vote Labour? We are the party of social justice. We are a party of compassion for the vulnerable. If we get a Tory government in May we are signing up to 5 more years of savage cuts, the like of which you have never seen before. Cameron has said he will clamp down on trade union activities, and make it virtually illegal to belong and participate in a union. Ukip and their chancer leader Nigel Farage want a privatised health system, waving goodbye to our free NHS, an end to maternity leave for women in small businesses and an end to paternity leave; a far right vision of a wealthy middle class England breathing fear and xenophobia into our land. Is this what we want? Is this your vision of Britain?

Labour are the party of the NHS. We build it while the Tories destroy it. It is so precious to us a vote for any other party in May will see it end forever. The Tories and Ukip want us all signed up to private health insurance like the USA.

Labour are the party of opportunity for the young. New technical apprenticeships, highly skilled have been announced. Tuition fees for universities will be cut from £9,000 to £6000 per year in England and just over £3000 in Wales under a socialist government. Votes for 16 yr olds will be  brought in. Hope not despair for our young.

Labour are the party of families. Free 25 hour a week childcare for all ¾ year olds,  and paid extended paternity leave. Family centred policies. Not tax breaks for millionaires like the Tories hand out.

Labour are the party of workers. The only party to promise to push employers for a  Living Wage for all and the minimum wage to be increased to £8 an hour. The same party that brought in the minimum wage to employers screams and it’s worked out alright hasn’t it?

You will of course make up your own minds shortly on how you will vote. You may already know. But make no mistake this will be the general election that will be a catalyst for years to come. I cannot even imagine another 5 years of Tory rule with £12 billion of cuts being targeted at the disabled, working poor and carers.

Let me leave you with this;

Our Unions built the Labour Party.
In numbers we stand United.
Unity is strength.

Together we are ‘un-bloody breakable’!!!!!