It should not take a picture of a dead child to move us to treat refugees with compassion and humanity, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said at a TUC fringe meeting today (Monday).
“Desperate refugees fleeing conflicts have been dying in Europe’s pitiless seas for years. The world has turned its face away – and our tabloid papers and our politicians should hang their heads in shame,” he said.
The current wave of protests was forcing politicians to act, and it was our “our humanitarian duty and our moral duty” to keep up the pressure.
Mr Prentis made his intervention at the TUC Race Relations Committee’s anti-racism fringe, Fighting for Decent Jobs, Hours and Pay.
The current refugee crisis served only to underline the importance of trade unions at a time when the government was using its Trade Union Bill to attack working people, he said.
“We fought for the rights this government is trying to take away. Legal rights didn’t bring us into existence – we made them happen. And at the heart of our struggle has been this great idea: that the humblest worker is a human being who matters just as much as his or her boss. That workers deserve to have decent pay and a decent life.”
Yet, the recent TUC report, Living on the Margins, had shown that Black workers were still more likely to be forced into precarious forms of work and suffer low pay and insecurity.
“A national scandal we cannot ignore – racism is here and as strong as ever. Our challenge must be that when we organise around low pay and exploitation, we organise against racism at the same time – standing together, united.”