Opinion Former Article

Unite warns government `be careful what you wish for' - we will resist attacks on workers' rights

David Cameron and George Osborne are leaders of a `cobbled together coalition' that is rapidly `forfeiting the right to rule', warned Len McCluskey, leader of Unite today (Monday 25 June).

Addressing delegates at the union’s biennial policy conference in Brighton he warned the government to expect fierce resistance against attacks on the rights of working people, as they defend themselves against a further decade or more of cuts and diminishing living standards.

Opening the conference, Len McCluskey said:

"If you wanted to make the case for the importance of trade unionism today, I would point to just one image, that of unemployed young people being forced to sleep under London Bridge before getting up to work for nothing on the day of the Jubilee celebrations.

"Even in the 1980s, even when Mrs Thatcher was at her worst, I do not recall such naked slave labour being used. But that is the world you get if business, the rich, have all the power and if trade unionism is attacked and reduced.

"This government will never lift a finger against that system, in fact they want to go further. But if they do seek to put the basic freedoms which are normal across the rest of Europe beyond the law, then we are not going to submit to that.

"Unite will take whatever prudent steps are necessary to support our members come what may. We will not lie down before injustice.

"As Bob Dylan once sang “to live outside the law you must be honest”. I will be honest and tell anyone in government thinking of putting unions effectively outside the law – be careful what you wish for.

"I hope ministers listen. But most of the time this is a government at war with much of the British people. It is a cobbled-together coalition government united on only one thing – that the poor must pay for the bankers’ crisis.

"It is a government that sits and watches as another forgotten generation of young people proceed straight from school to the dole queue; more than a million of our kids facing a future without hope is nothing short of shameful.

“It stamps on the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people with the politics of fear, threatening to cut the benefits of vulnerable low paid workers who stand up for their rights, and will impose cuts for the next decade that will sweep away the services we value.

"This is a government forfeiting the right to rule. Cameron and Osborne be warned: we will not stand by and let the hopes of ordinary men and women be crushed."

Len McCluskey will also send a warning to the employers of 21,000 London bus workers that unless they negotiate a fair and sensible solution, there will be further strikes:

"This is a straightforward dispute about fairness - giving hardworking bus workers the same bonus for facing challenges, that have already been awarded to other transport workers - and a fraction of the bonuses being paid to TfL bosses. I say to Boris Johnson and the rest of the bus companies, sort it out or more strikes are inevitable."

A full copy of the speech is available here


For further information please call Alex Flynn, head of media and campaigns for Unite on 07967 665869 or Pauline Doyle, director of communications, on 07976 832 861.

Notes to editors

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The union’s general secretary is Len McCluskey. 

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