Nothing ever handed to us on a plate, TUC president tells congress

‘Let’s use our fighting spirit to organise, to campaign and to win’ UNISON’s Liz Snape urges delegates

Trade union representatives are meeting at “a crucial point in our history”, TUC president Liz Snape told congress delegates as she opened this week’s debates in Brighton yesterday evening.

Ms Snape, who is a UNISON assistant general secretary, reminded the congress that “if there’s one lesson from history we should never forget, it’s that our people – our class – were never handed anything on a plate.

“Nothing was given graciously and nothing came without a fight. So that old saying, ‘unity is strength’, has never mattered more.”

She said that the annual congress was an ideal opportunity to “tell the world what we stand for; to celebrate our wins; to raise our heads high; to tell a positive story about the difference we make to people’s lives – every hour of every day.”

And she told delegates that the past 12 months had been a tough year, and “tougher still for those we represent”. But faced with a majority Tory government for the first time since 1997, it was also a year when “we held our nerve and we found our fight.”

And now the challenge for the union movement is to channel that fight “to protect all we hold dear – our public services, our welfare state, our industries – to campaign for that vision of a better world where people matter more than profit, a world that works for the many not just the few, that offers hope to those who live in fear and in poverty.”

Finally, Ms Snape reminded delegates that “we rise together or we fall together – it’s a simple as that. So let’s stand together – as trade unionists, as workers, as friends – treating each other with dignity and respect.

“That fighting spirit we’ve rekindled this year, let’s use it to organise, to campaign and, Congress, to win.”