‘We will continue to stand with striking workers’

UNISON’s Labour Link Forum stresses the importance of solidarity after RMT strikes

UNISON’s National Labour Link Forum was held today in York – the first in-person event in three years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In her opening remarks, Linda Hobson, chair of the national Labour Link committee, reminded the forum: “Boris Johnson, after disgracing the country as our prime minister has resigned, but he’s still here, clinging on. Even his party want him gone.

“But we should never forget that they were defending him to the hilt only a few weeks ago – and they put him in power in the first place.”

She reiterated the words of UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea, when she spoke of Johnson’s ‘dreadful legacy’.

“Billions of pounds wasted on useless, fraudulent PPE contracts and huge numbers of deaths in care homes. Public services are on the brink and essential workers who provide them can’t make ends meet. Three years after Johnson promised to ‘fix social care’ on the steps of Downing Street, it’s in a worse state than ever.”

Ms Hobson repeated the call for a general election, “so voters can determine what happens next, rather than leaving our future at the mercy of squabbling Conservative MPs”. And she urged the Labour Party to get ready for that election.

She also took the opportunity to reaffirm to the voters UNISON Labour Link’s position on strike action and the Labour Party.

“Strike action is a necessary and critical aspect of trade union activity.” she said. “Many of you in this room will have taken strike action in the past to defend your rights, your pay and your jobs. As a union we are proud of UNISON members who take strike action, and stand in solidarity with workers who are forced to take strike action within our sister unions.

“In recent weeks we have stood in solidarity with the RMT, as their members fight for decent pay and to protect their jobs.

“It was therefore a matter of real concern and disappointment to see that the Labour leadership instructed front benchers not to stand on RMT picket lines. Showing solidarity for workers in struggle should never be something that Labour politicians are stopped from doing. And no-one should face disciplinary action for doing so – we are glad that so far common sense has prevailed on that score.

“Any attempt to punish any MP for supporting striking workers would be a grave mistake,” she continued. “I want to assure the forum that in recent weeks, UNISON Labour Link has used every channel and opportunity at our disposal to privately convey our anger at their actions on the RMT strikes – and have worked through TULO [Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation] with colleagues from other affiliated unions to hold the party to account for their actions.”

Ms Hobson concluded: “As chair, I want to assure the forum that we will continue to stand with striking workers, and we will continue to push back against anyone in the Labour Party who attempts to curb the rights of elected representatives to stand with those in dispute.”