The incoming head of the TUC, Frances O’Grady (pictured) says her first main job will be ‘getting this government to change course’ and building a ‘grand alliance against austerity’. Speaking to UnionNews as she arrived at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festiv …

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The incoming head of the TUC, Frances O’Grady (pictured) says her first main job will be ‘getting this government to change course’ and building a ‘grand alliance against austerity’.

Speaking to UnionNews as she arrived at the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival, Frances O’Grady said: “I’m really proud, really honoured to have been chosen [for the post of TUC General Secretary].

“The big challenge for us all has got to be getting this government to change course, getting investment in decent jobs and growth in the economy.

“Austerity is failing and we need the government to change course, but we’ll need to build trade union membership and organisation if we’re going to persuade them.”

The new TUC leader, who has served as deputy general since 2005, will be officially endorsed at the Annual Congress in September and is scheduled to take over from her current boss, Brendan Barber, when he stands down at the end of the year.

Frances O’Grady spoke at one of the keynote Tolpuddle political debates and acted as MC for the all the Festival acts on Friday evening.

They were her first public engagements with such a large group of trade unionists since the announcement last Tuesday that she had been elected the first female TUC general secretary.

She issued a warning to politicians of all parties not to ignore the views and voices of organised workers in their drive to implement austerity cuts on the UK electorate.

“If politicians don’t listen to the voices of those being punished for a crisis they didn’t commit, they will pay a heavy price at the next election.”

Frances O’Grady’s appointment has been widely welcomed among union leaders and activists as well as at the TUC’s home in Congress House, where she is credited with spearheading moves to train a new layer of younger – and female – organisers and officials.

She may be looking to that new generation of officials to help implement any changes to the organisaton once she is established in the post, from early 2013.

However, she also acknowledges that the trade union movement itself faces a challenge if it is to become a forceful voice in that wider political debate.

“All the research shows people want to join trade unions if people ask them. So I’m asking them now: to join, get active, not just in workplaces but in communities too, because we’ve got to make this a grand alliance against austerity and for an alternative.”


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