TUC says he addresses the issues that matter most to working people

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, FBU, GMB, PCS, Unison, Unite,

Jeremy Corbyn Labour 2015Unions have praised Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech to conference as Labour leader, saying he addressed the issues that matter most to working people.

Corbyn yesterday spoke at the party’s annual conference in Brighton, when he described the Trade Union Bill as a “fundamental attack on human rights”. He also said he would expose the lie that the Tories are the party of working people.

He said: “It is nonsense that the Tories are giving Britain a pay rise. It was one of the proudest days of my life when cycling home from Parliament at 5 o’clock in the morning having voted for the national minimum wage legislation to go through.

“So of course it’s good to see a minimum wage. But the phoney rebranding of it as a living wage doesn’t do anyone any good. And the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown Cameron’s broken promise mean millions of workers are still left far worse off. They can and must be changed.”

He attacked the Tories for failing to step in to save steel jobs in Teeside, and for presiding over a fall in living standards and breaking a promise not to cut child tax credits.

He said: “It’s a shocking broken promise – and the Tories voted it through in Parliament just two weeks ago. How can it be right for a single mother working as a part time nurse earning just £18,000 to lose £2,000 to this broken promise?

“Some working families losing nearly £3,500 a year to this same broken promise. And how can it be right or fair to break this promise while handing out an inheritance tax cut to 60,000 of the wealthiest families in the country? See the contrast. So we’ll fight this every inch of the way.”

He also vowed to re-nationalise the railways and protect both the NHS and the BBC, as well as supporting small businesses and the self-employed.

He said: “One in seven of the labour force now work for themselves. Some of them have been driven into it as their only response to keep an income coming in, insecure though it is.

But many people like the independence and flexibility self-employment brings to their lives, the sense of being your own boss. And that’s a good thing.

“But with that independence comes insecurity and risk especially for those on the lowest and most volatile incomes. There’s no Statutory Sick Pay if they have an accident at work. There’s no Statutory Maternity Pay for women when they become pregnant.

“They have to spend time chasing bigger firms to pay their invoices on time, so they don’t slip further into debt. They earn less than other workers. On average just £11,000 a year. And their incomes have been hit hardest by five years of Tory economic failure.

“So what are the Tories doing to help the self-employed, the entrepreneurs they claim to represent? They’re clobbering them with the tax credit cuts. And they are going to clobber them again harder as they bring in Universal Credit. So I want our policy review to tackle this in a really serious way. And be reflective of what modern Britain is actually like.”

His speech was well-received by unions. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The new Labour leader spoke about issues that really matter to working people – support for working parents, the investment needed for a strong economy and protecting the right to strike. We’re glad that the Labour Party is focusing on how we achieve our shared aspiration of great jobs for everyone.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This was a fantastic speech which hopefully marks a turning point in British politics. Corbyn’s speech was one of hope, offering a real alternative to the Tory agenda of cuts, austerity and attacks on workers.

“Firefighters and trade unionists alike will be heartened to have a Labour leader who is on their side for once.

“Blairite MPs need to respect the wishes of the vast majority of Labour members and supporters who delivered Jeremy Corbyn a decisive leadership win.

“The campaign to elect Corbyn Labour leader was just the start, not the end of the campaign for a new politics that can deliver for working people. The wider Labour movement now urgently needs to support and organise around this campaign.

“The Labour Party through Corbyn now has the opportunity to offer the public a real alternative. Instead of this government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich, we need a movement on behalf of the majority. Corbyn’s election offers us the chance to build that.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Today Jeremy treated us to a different kind of politics and I believe people will like what they see. Principle, honesty,  fairness and dignity – our lifelong Labour values – are taking their rightful place in the public realm.

“He was inspirational – in setting out a new vision for our country he gave our tired politics a long-overdue shot in the arm.

“Unite members will be especially heartened to hear that Jeremy believes in an active role for government – in protecting jobs, in using investment to build the homes families and young people urgently need and to keep our communities strong.

“Voters are now hearing a clear Labour alternative to the Conservative austerity project, an appalling dogma that is making our country more unequal, spreading insecurity and poverty – and it is being undertaken as a political choice, by a government wholly-owned by the hedge funds.

“Jeremy Corbyn drew a clear line in the sand today when he told the Tories that their mindless austerity is an affront to the British people and its time is well and truly up.

“Labour can proclaim with pride that it is the only party of hope and fairness, the party of the people.  Labour values will make Britain great again.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This was a speech of a real leader, someone who lives and breathes democracy and solidarity. Jeremy has brilliantly answered his critics, setting out a vision of a country where honesty and decency replace greed and conflict.

“We now have the opportunity to build a genuinely formidable opposition to Tory austerity inside and outside Parliament.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Jeremy showed today that politics can be different. His vision of a kinder, more caring society will appeal to the many who have felt ignored by Westminster, and disconnected from its politicians, for so long.

“With this new approach Labour can start to win back the many voters it has lost, by showing just how different it is from the cruel and brutal Tories, who are slashing public services, snatching away much-needed tax credits, and stopping people from having a voice at work. Challenging the government’s vindictive and heartless policies must now be top of Labour’s list.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said:  “No whistles, no bells or flashing lights just straight forward fresh politics about truth, compassion, decency and justice. I think this will resonate with the public who have been disillusioned with Westminster politics. Let us not forget that his job description is that of Leader of the Opposition and this is very good start in that job.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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