The moment to stand up and be counted

By Len McCluskey

Millions need trade union help and protection as never before. This is a moment for us to stand up and be counted.

We are in a deep economic crisis. Hard-won pay, conditions and pensions are under threat from Cameron and Clegg.

The government is making ordinary people pay for the bankers’ crash with the most savage public spending cuts ever seen – that’s you, your parents, your children and their schools, your neighbours in difficulties, your daughter’s chance of a home of her own on the line.

And jobs are being blitzed. Over a million more people will be on the dole because of Osborne’s plans. Another “lost generation” looms for young people. The anger students have already expressed is increasingly shared across the country.

Britain’s first Cameron Christmas will be a time of anxiety for working people. I want to work with Ed Miliband, Alan Johnson and the whole Labour team to offer an alternative people can rally around.

Until we get Labour back into power, strong trade unions are the best – often the only – line of defence for people facing hardship.

Unite is our biggest trade union, and the largest in the private sector by far. We need to be protecting people at work – and arguing the case for a better society – like never before.

That is why the election for our General Secretary matters. Leadership is about giving people confidence to take a stand for their rights.

I have been a union activist for more than forty years, from my early days as a shop steward in the docks to dealing with tough bosses like BA’s Willie Walsh this year.

I have led campaigns which have kept workplaces open and saved jobs, and I have won better pay and conditions for thousands of our members.

Some may say we should keep our heads down, and wait for a better political climate before taking action to save jobs and services.

Alas, we don’t have that luxury. Of course we need public opinion on our side, which is why working closely with Labour MPs is so vital. But the battle has been forced upon us now by a government drunk on ideological zeal.

So this is no time for running up the white flag in the face of difficulties. Anyone who rushes into strike action is a fool. But anyone who signals that we will never do so is conceding the game to Cameron right from the kick-off.

A trade union is not a club taking members’ money and dishing out free diaries in return. It is not about a few top officials living high on the hog while ordinary members struggle to get by. We have seen too much of that.

Unite must devote ALL its resources to helping people on the frontline, protecting pay and pensions above all.

It must campaign against the public spending cuts and lead the fight to save jobs, taking the arguments for industry and workers’ skills into the corridors of power.

And it must champion equality in the face of cuts which will hit women hardest and fight to protect pensioners.

All this needs unity across Unite’s 1.5 million members. I am proud to have been the only candidate to have won support from all parts of our union, from the old T&G to ex-AEU, from MSF to the proud print unions which are now part of the Unite family.

I’m not bothered by personal attacks from the right-wing media – it means I must be doing the right thing for our people.

This election is a clear choice for the future of trade unionism.

My vision is of a union that puts its members first and stands up for them come what may.

The other is of a union that puts keeping in with managers and ministers first, of tickle-my-tummy trade unionism.

This is no time for a lurch to the right. The generation that built the welfare state would never forgive us.

Unite members know that their interests lie in having a strong, democratic and independent union led by a General Secretary who can unite Unite and is not afraid of the challenges ahead. On that basis, I ask for your vote.

Len McCluskey is a candidate for Unite General Secretary.

The election for Unite’s General Secretary ends this Friday. We strongly urge all our readers who have a vote to return their ballot papers.

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2 Responses to “The moment to stand up and be counted”

  1. Skiamakhos says:

    I joined Unite (and Labour & the Fabians) a few weeks ago, soon as I woke up & realised the LibDems had sold their voters out. I’m throwing everything I have into getting these bastards out.

  2. Chris says:

    Perhaps it’s time that the bloating of the civil service (rarely civil and provide a poor service if any) that labour encouraged was undone.

    More civil servants doing less yet drawing excellent pensions and salaries beyond those of the people who nominally employee them. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that that’ll fail eventually.

    Better to hack of the calluses and tumours.

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