Union leader slates government and bankers at Brighton conference

The leader of Britain’s biggest trade union said in Brighton today (Monday 25 June) that the government was at war with the public.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey opened his union’s policy conference at the Brighton Centre by saying: “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.

Len McCluskey
“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.”

He 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.”

The union, which holds its policy conference every other year, also criticised the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

It blamed poor management decisions for the banking group’s troubles over the past six days.

Computer problems have left RBS and Natwest customers unable to pay bills and transfer money in and out of their accounts.

Unite national officer David Fleming said: “It is the workforce at Royal Bank of Scotland who are working around the clock to resolve the problems customers are facing.

“Yet RBS management has slashed 30,000 staff, imposed a pay cut and decimated the pensions of those dedicated staff who are now working hard to resolve the problems.

“Serious questions must be asked as to why constant job cuts are being made when there are clearly serious issues which need addressing by management.

“Customers and staff have the right to expect more from their bank.

“Unite, on behalf of the staff who have given up their evenings and weekend to address the problems, will demand answers as to why staffing levels are being cut at a time of considerable problems within the bank.”

Delegates began arriving for the conference in Brighton on Saturday (23 June) and are due to leave on Thursday (28 June).

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