On Wednesday 13th September I gave the Sororal Address at the 2023 TUC Conference. You can read my speech below and watch it here.
[Check against delivery]
Thank you Congress for that kind introduction. Maria, I thought we’d never speak on the same platform again as last time I pre-emptively announced her forthcoming civil partnership with Angela Eagle. Sorry about that Maria! I promise no breach of confidence this time.
Congratulations to Paul who’s made a cracking start in his new role as General Secretary of the TUC.
And it’s a pleasure to be here with you in your great home city of Liverpool.
I’d want to add my tribute to your outstanding former General Secretary, Frances O’grady, She’s now chairing our Equal Pay Commission and has been a beacon for women across the trade labour movement.
It’s inspiring to see here at congress the new generation of women union members and the new women General Secretaries who are fearlessly taking your unions forward. You are pioneers.
Women used to be shut out of union leadership and now they’ve pushed the door open.
As good as it as to have this. For the men here don't breathe a sigh of relief. You’re not off the hook. We used to shut men out of the women’s movement, but now we are calling on you to step forward and back your sisters up, not just to be passive bystanders but to be active male allies.
It is a huge privilege for me to bring you greetings and solidarity from all your friends, colleagues and comrades in the Labour Party.
From my time giving legal advice to the Trico equal pay strikers in the 1970s and the Grunwick workers in the 1980s I’ve always known that employees are powerless without the collective strength of their union.
Labour is deeply proud of you, our brothers and sisters in the trade union movement.
We won’t forget what you and your members did during the pandemic, the sheer bravery of those key workers when covid was spreading like wildfire and there was no vaccination in sight.
Cleaners, postal workers, teachers, teaching support staff, delivery workers, utility workers, NHS workers…and many more
These people to whom we owe so much, who you in the this room represent.
And we have not forgotten how you fought for those workers to be able to have as much protection as possible as we stayed safe at home while they had to go out to work.
And as the government have wrecked the economy and ground down people’s living standards, showing themselves to be completely out of touch.
You, in the trade unions have
- shown you understand the concerns of working people,
- you’ve listened to their struggles
- you've spoken out for them
- You’ve supported them
- you have fought for their pay at the negotiating table and
- you have delivered.
You have shown that you truly are the strong champion at work that people need and you have shown that the trade union movement is as necessary today as it ever was.
The enduring link between the trade unions and Labour is based in our history but it’s vital for today and our future.
We share values and hopes. We work together to achieve them.
So, thank you to those who've served on our National Executive Committee, who've toiled on the National Policy Forum and provided expert policy advice.
Thank you for your support for our MPs and our councillors and for campaigning for the Labour Party throughout England Scotland and wales, and
Thank you to your members who choose to pay the political levy to contribute invaluable financial support.
You and your members will help us get into government and help us deliver when we are in government. We never take that for granted.
You heard from Angela yesterday. What an amazing woman she is. You can see why she terrorises the Tories and makes me feel like a shrinking violent.
She’s a living example of the difference a labour government can make.
And with crumbling schools and endless hospital waiting lists, we are long overdue for the next Labour government and the change that would bring.
Real, transformative change.
And that will be evident in our New Deal for Working People.
No-one can do their best work if they’re wracked with fear about the future.
Or if a proper safety net doesn’t support them in times of sickness and poor health.
That’s what Labour’s New Deal for Working People is about.
Our clear commitment to start improving the lives of working people as soon as we take office.
In the first 100 days a Labour government would:
- Give workers their rights from day one
- Improve maternity and paternity rights, and rights for pregnant women and new mothers returning to work
- Build on Labour’s Equality Act to require organisations to report not just on their gender pay gap but on their ethnic pay gap too
- End Fire and Rehire
And Congress, the evidence is clear.
In Countries that have stronger collective bargaining…
That have stronger worker rights…
That have a fairer share of wealth...
You get a stronger economy too.
So we will
- Strengthen collective bargaining rights
- Make it easier for trade unions to organise in workplaces
- Repeal anti union laws, including the pernicious Minimum Services legislation the Tories pushed through earlier this year, attacking working people’s fundamental rights to take industrial action
- And give the trade unions a strong voice – along with business – in a new Industrial Strategy Council
As Keir has said: ‘An economy that is strong for working people, cannot weaken the institutions that give working people strength’.
You don't have to choose between a strong economy and a fair society. Economic prosperity and social justice go hand in hand.
To do this we have to win and with you, that is what we will work ceaselessly to do.
Before I finish, I’d like to mention a dedicated Labour and trade unionist who’s no longer with us and who we all dearly miss. And that is Jack Dromey.
I want to thank you for the outpouring of respect and affection so many of you, from all around the country, showed for him after his death last year. It meant so much to me and to our family. More than I can say.
But we know, don’t we, what Jack would be saying to us.
He’d be saying,
“We are so close now- Don't mess it up
Working people are depending on us.
Work together - don't argue
It’s within reach - We can do it”
And to me, of whom he was so supportive, he’d say
“That was a remarkable speech you made to the TUC, probably your best yet!”
But I’ll leave you to be the judge of that!
Let’s get that change,
let’s get that new government,
Congress, let’s do it!