At Last! Mexican Union Leader Napoleon Gomez Is Heading Home

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NZ Union Leader Tazered, Attacked & Detained In Israel

Mike Treen, National Director of Unite Union in NZ.

From the New Zealand Herald 30 July, 2018

A New Zealand union leader has been attacked and being unlawfully detained by the Israeli military, his union claims.

The alleged incident took place on Monday morning, and Mike Treen National Director of the Unite union was attacked along with other international campaigners on board the ship Al Awda while taking part in a mission to deliver aid to Gaza.

The NZ Unite union is calling on the government to demand for his release from Israeli authorities.

“Mike was taking part in a peaceful mission to deliver aid to Gaza and was in international waters when attacked and detained. We understand he has been taken, kidnapped in reality, to the southern Israeli port of Ashod,” said National Secretary Gerard Hehir.

“We expect the New Zealand government to strongly protest and demand his immediate release, along with his fellow campaigners and the Al Awda so they can deliver the much needed medical aid to the port of Gaza”.

Hehir said the mission posed absolutely no threat to Israel or its people.

“It is a fishing boat loaded with medicines,” he said.

Hehir said that Treen knew he was likely to be attacked and illegally imprisoned and was prepared for that.

“Mike is also very aware that what was done to him over the last 24 hours is the daily reality for the nearly two million citizens of Gaza, imprisoned as a people” said Hehir.

Hehir said Unite Union was “very proud of Mike”.

“He is doing right now what he has done his entire life – standing up to those in power and calling them out publicly for their treatment of their fellow human beings,” he said.

Unite is expecting Treen to be deported back to New Zealand in the next week.

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Japanese & UK union leaders call for Brexit to deliver for workers in the UK and Japan

Nissan prodcution line Sunderland.

27 July 2018

The TUC and RENGO (the Japanese Trade Union Confederation) have issued a joint statement highlighting the threat that a bad Brexit deal poses to workers, trade and investment.

In the shadow of the G7 Summit expressing concern over the rise of protectionism, which harms fair free trade and confidence in the global economic system, shaking solidarity among the developed countries, Japanese and British working people stand united by a shared goal: securing decent jobs, high skills and good wages for all.

We are concerned that Brexit poses real threats to workers and trade and investment between the UK and Japan.

Investment by Japanese companies supports thousands of good jobs in the UK, particularly in manufacturing, research and service jobs. For example, in the North East, Japanese companies provide quality employment, employing 13,700 people in manufacturing as well as other sectors.

A major reason why Japanese companies have come to the UK is that it provides a gateway to trade without barriers or tariffs with the rest of the EU. This is due to the UK’s membership of the single market. Japanese firms with big plants in the UK – such as car companies – sell most of their British-made goods in the EU.

Concern is already rising among Japanese companies regarding future investment in the UK due to the uncertainty of the outcomes of Brexit, and this may possibly have impacts on employment.

To ensure Japanese companies continue to invest and support good jobs in the UK, it is crucial that any Brexit deal continues to allow companies to trade without barriers or tariffs.

Any deal must also ensure that the UK continues to uphold the same levels of employment rights as those found in the EU to prevent undercutting and exploitation.

At the moment, the best option on the table is to guarantee this would be by the UK continuing to be a member of the single market and a customs union, although we would be open to other options.

The future of trade between the UK and Japan is also uncertain. It seems highly unlikely that we will see a trade deal between the UK and Japan in the near future. However, even if there were to be a trade agreement involving the participation of the UK and Japan, any future trade deal involving the two countries must have the creation of good jobs, protection of workers’ rights and public services at its heart.

And it must not include unfair Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms which would infringe the rights of governments and other public institutions of both the UK and Japan to legislate in relation to workers’ rights, public services, welfare and the environment.

To ensure any deal between the UK and Japan delivers for working people, it is essential our governments involve trade unions in negotiations.

Trade unions in Japan and the UK are clear: we need an end to Brexit uncertainties that put jobs and investment on the line. Instead we need guarantees that post-Brexit trade will protect jobs, rights and public services. UK and Japanese workers will continue to cooperate in taking action on this issue.

 

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Marxists, evangelicals, business executives, working class activists — meet Mexico’s strange new ruling coalition

“A good overview by a reporter who knows Mexico’ – Ben Davis, United Steelworkers.

By Dudley Althaus, Washington Post, July 6th

In winning Mexico’s presidency by a landslide, Andrés Manuel López Obrador is carrying with him into office an untested swarm of politicians and neophyte bureaucrats of disparate ideologies, skills and intentions.

Now he’ll have to govern with them.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the new president of Mexico.

López Obrador took 53 percent of the vote Sunday — a full 30 percentage points over his nearest rival — and triumphed in all but one of Mexico’s 32 states. The coalition led by his National Regeneration Movement, known as Morena, will probably control both houses of the National Congress, key statehouses and legislatures, and some of the country’s largest cities for at least the next few years.

López Obrador is a veteran leader of the left. But his coalition’s new office holders include social progressives and evangelical Christians, committed Marxists and pragmatic entrepreneurs, longtime rebels and reviled former leaders of the once monolithic Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Morena’s challenge is “to maintain the integrity of our majority,” said Higinio Martínez Miranda, 62, the mayor of the Mexico City suburb of Texcoco, who claimed a Senate seat on Sunday. “We come from many different paths.”

Other Senate winners for Morena include the fugitive exiled leader of Mexico’s miners union, a onetime U.S. immigrant freed from jail in 2016 after facing kidnapping charges and — most gratingly for many López Obrador supporters — the man widely blamed for a fraud-tinged 1988 election that denied a previous leftist candidate the presidency.

Scores of inexperienced lawmakers will take office Sept. 1. Thousands of state and federal jobs will have to be filled with movement loyalists also capable of public administration. First-time cabinet secretaries, governors and mayors alike will struggle to impose López Obrador’s ­zero-tolerance order for corruption in bureaucracies long oiled by it.

“It will be a learning process,” said Luis Valdepeña, a longtime leftist activist sporting a graying ponytail and goatee who helped lead the Morena campaign here in Ecatepec, a raw and impoverished sprawl of 1.6 million people bordering Mexico City. “Nothing is going to happen right away.”

Morena trounced the PRI in Ecatepec and across the state of Mexico, the country’s most populous. The state had been a PRI bastion for nearly a century — President Enrique Peña Nieto was governor here, the beneficiary of a political machine that dominated the state for decades.

But the PRI held on to only three of 45 state assembly seats. Morena also claims 38 of the state’s 41 seats in the federal Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress, and 44 of 125 city halls, including those in the teeming working-class suburbs of Mexico City that account for most of the state’s population.

The party’s mayor-elect here in Ecatepec, Fernando Vilchis, is a lawyer and longtime leader of a left-leaning grass-roots organization but has never held public office. He will now have to administer one of Mexico’s largest, poorest and most violent cities. Ecatepec employs more than 6,500 people, including about 2,500 police officers.

“We are going to bring in experts to train people, including in the most important issue, which is honesty,” said Vilchis, 42. “There are some people who despite being from other parties are good public servants. One thing is a lack of training, another is a failure to govern. Past governments didn’t want to.”

Some residents doubt Vilchis and his team are up to the task.

“He doesn’t have a political career,” said Victor Villanueva, a 65-year-old PRI stalwart whose father held elective posts in the city for decades. “We don’t know with whom he is going to govern, and this city has many problems.”

López Obrador founded Morena little more than four years ago after the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD — on whose ticket he lost two previous presidential runs — made a pact with the PRI and center-right National Action Party to pass free-market energy, education and labor overhauls reviled by many on the left.

The party started small, with just other PRD deserters, and built slowly by attracting independent unions and those fleeing the other parties. In its debut election in 2015, Morena won about 8 percent of the vote in federal midterm elections, as well as five of Mexico City’s 16 districts and city halls and state assembly seats elsewhere.

The coalition led by Morena in this year’s election includes the Workers’ Party, which condemns capitalism as the root of Mexico’s inequality, and the conservative Social Encounter Party, or PES. The PES is a tiny evangelical Christian party that supports ­López Obrador’s anti-corruption message but little of his more socially liberal agenda.

Striving to forge even wider consensus, López Obrador has spent this week making nice with his political rivals and Mexico’s powerful business organizations, trying to calm both investors and the public.

After meeting with Peña Nieto, the president-elect said that his administration would respect the independence of Mexico’s central bank and would not be seizing any private property. Mexico’s trade-focused and business-friendly macroeconomic policies would continue, he said.

“We have to agree on many issues,” López Obrador said of Peña Nieto, who leaves office Dec. 1. “That there are no shocks, that there is confidence in economic and financial matters. Above all, that peace and tranquility be guaranteed in this transition period.”

Maintaining the economic status quo may not sit well with many of López Obrador’s more radical followers. Neither will the electoral deals López Obrador made with political leaders, many of them formerly tied to the PRI, to win niche votes.

Manuel Bartlett, the former ­interior minister accused by many of fixing the 1988 presidential election, will take a seat as ­Morena’s senator from central Puebla state. López Obrador sought and received the support of Elba Esther Gordillo, the once PRI-allied former leader of Mexico’s 2 million-strong teachers union, who remains under house arrest on corruption charges from six years ago.

“That hurt for many of us,” Rocio Lopez, 51, a former federal congresswoman and longtime ­López Obrador ally, said of the deals with former PRI leaders. “But Andrés Manuel decides and we have to follow. They are on probation.”

Napoleon Gomez of Los Mineros trade union now a senator in Mexico

Less controversial for Morena is the Senate win of Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, the leader of the national Miners Union who has lived in Canada since being accused by federal prosecutors of fraud involving a deadly coal mine explosion in 2006.

Formal charges have long since been dropped, but Gómez Urrutia has remained in Canada for fear of facing new ones should he return to Mexico. López Obrador and others have defended him as a victim of government persecution.

Nestora Salgado, another incoming senator, will win immunity from pending kidnapping charges related to her brief stint as head of a volunteer community police force in the violent southern state of Guerrero. Supporters say the charges were a political attack by a former state governor.

Her release from prison is being appealed by state prosecutors.
Morena leaders say they are intent on maintaining party discipline. They want to avoid the factional infighting that crippled the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which many assume will soon disappear.

“We must unconditionally support López Obrador,” said Martínez Miranda, a surgeon who has been involved in leftist politics for more than four decades.

“His program isn’t to make revolution,” he said of López Obrador. “It’s to allow people to hope again.”

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Unions Welcome Tata – Thyssenkrupp Agreement

The trade unions within Tata Steel UK (Unite, Community and GMB) have welcomed the announcement that Tata Steel and thyssenkrupp will form a joint venture. The three unions recognise the industrial logic of this partnership and consider it the best solution to ensure the long term future of the Tata Steel UK operations.

Tony Brady, National Officer for Steel in Unite said: “Tata Steel’s UK workforce is world class and has worked tirelessly under a cloud of uncertainty to keep steel making alive in the UK. Those steelworkers have made great sacrifices in working to secure a future for Tata Steel.
 
“We will be seeking guarantees over  jobs and investment for the UK operations of the joint venture to secure the future of UK steel. The UK plants desperately require a level playing field through investment and commitment to the long term future of steel making at Port Talbot.”

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said: “Steelworkers have fought hard to ensure the future of British steelmaking. With a commitment to avoid any compulsory redundancies until October 2026, and the first £200m of any operating profit being invested back in the business, this joint venture has the potential to safeguards jobs and steelmaking for a generation. However, this joint venture will only succeed if the necessary strategic investments are made to allow the business to thrive.
 
“Steelworkers have had a tough few years and have done their bit for the industry. It is important that government and business do their bit too and deliver the investment necessary to allow UK steelmaking to grow and compete in post-Brexit Britain. A key step would be the delivery of the steel sector deal, which would create new jobs and unlock investment.”

Ross Murdoch, National Officer for GMB said: “Along with our sister unions in Tata Steel, GMB has always strived to secure jobs and long term investment for the highly skilled workforce within Tata Steel UK.
 
“We will continue to ensure jobs and investment remain the key underpinning priorities within any final joint venture, which must equate to opportunities for our members in the UK, particularly after the difficult and uncertain recent times they have faced.”

Comment: The workforce in Tata Steel steel have shown dedication and commitment to getting this agreement and in the fight to save the UK steel industry. It is time for the Government to now step upto the plate. They must now deliver the steel industry sector deal, to show they back the UK steel industry and UK manufacturing; support measure to stop the dumping of steel on the market, oppose Market Economy Status for China and stand upto Trump’s job destrying tariffs. We need a global solution not a trade war.

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USA: Massive attack on trade union in Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 decision

From Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO

The Supreme Court heard a case on June 27th (Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31)  brought by the rich and powerful who are trying to take away your freedom to join in union.

The American labor movement is a family that will not be pushed around or denied. Working people pave the streets, drive the buses, educate our children, and are the first to respond in times of emergency. Working families know best what is needed to build a better life for ourselves and our loved ones.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the historic 1968 strike in Memphis for better benefits, pay, and safety on the job marked by the poignant words: “I AM A MAN.”

Just like the AFSCME workers in Memphis 50 years ago, we will not back down from the struggle for justice.This past weekend, working people came together in cities all over the country to support the freedom of ALL people to join in union.

Workers are fighting back against the attacks that further rig the economic playing field and jeopardize our freedom to join and win together.

I know that together, we can stand firm to unrig the system and build a better life for working families. Sharing this graphic is a great way to show your solidarity in the fight for workers right now.

Share the image above to support the right of all workers to join together in union for a better life.

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AFL-CIO and ETUC Support Fair Trade Practices

AFL-CIO and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) issued a joint statement today on trade and multilateralism on June 15, 2018:

The working people of the United States and Europe have been harmed by unfair trade practices, including China’s deliberate overproduction of steel and aluminum, intellectual property theft, forced transfer of production, and violation of basic labor rights.

The working people of the United States and Europe have supported the growth of multilateral global governance since the end of the Second World War, and have continued to support that structure even as it has been increasingly captured by the interests of global corporations and the failed ideology of neoliberalism. A global economy requires multilateral institutions; the alternative is a war of all against all.

We support the reform of the multilateral system so that it is more democratic, more open and takes into consideration labor-social-environmental rights, but we oppose efforts to destroy it. The refusal of the Trump Administration to engage productively in established multilateral processes at the OECD and the G-7 in recent weeks has been detrimental to the international system and we urge the Trump Administration to change course.

We support trade that is fair and effectively enforced, in particular when it comes to protecting and enhancing key international labor rights such as freedom of association, right to organize and collective bargaining. This is the only way to ensure a level playing field for workers’ rights and avoid a race to the bottom on wages and working conditions. So far, our respective governments and the European Commission have paid too much attention to international trade liberalization, while neglecting the consequences on workers’ rights and their conditions. This neglect now threatens the underlying legitimacy of the international system and must be addressed.

When states or firms break trade rules or exploit loopholes, working people are the first to be harmed, and we expect our elected governments to stand up for us. When unfair trade practices go unaddressed, working people suffer further harm. That is why we have long advocated for swift and concrete global actions to address harmful, state-driven trade-distorting practices. To avoid a spiraling trade crisis, a comprehensive multilateral approach must be developed so no country has to go it alone.

We believe that trade enforcement is most effective when our governments cooperate to achieve shared goals. The priority should be to work together to thoughtfully and effectively address trade practices, including those by China, that for too long have allowed global companies to profit at our expense instead of with us. A rules-based trading system requires that rules be enforced. We are united in support for a concerted approach to China’s trade-distorting practices and in our opposition to a trade war. We believe the failure on the part of multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) to effectively address China’s trade-distorting practices is a threat to the multilateral system itself and must be addressed.

Global shared prosperity, sustainable development, inclusive growth, and respect for international labor rights require comprehensive trade reform and multilateral action. We urge all of our governments and the European Commission to work together, not at cross-purposes, to achieve these goals.

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Unsung Hero: The Jack Jones Story – Trailer

Unsung Hero: The Jack Jones Story – Trailer from Hurricane Films on Vimeo.

‘Unsung Hero – The Jack Jones Story’ is a documentary on one of the greatest British figures of the past century – a man who exercised more power over government economic policy than any other trades union leader in British history.

Jones took on four of the great evils of modern times: poverty, fascism, worker exploitation and pensioner poverty – and took them on with so much conviction that at one point, the public voted him the most powerful man in Britain.

The life of Jack Jones mirrors the story of the 20th century – a man whose like we may never see again.

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VSC Statement On Venezuela’s Presidential Elections

Venezuela’s Presidential elections on Sunday May 20th saw Nicolas Maduro re-elected. With 92.6 percent of the votes counted, Maduro had 5.8 million votes (nearly 68%), with his closest rival, former governor Henri Falcón getting 1.8 million votes.  Two other candidates also competed.

The election was observed by 150 international observers who confirmed the free and fair nature of the vote, including former Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa who said “No one can question the Venezuelan elections… in the world there is no election as monitored as Venezuelan elections.”

Despite pressure from the Trump administration not to do so, international leaders have started to recognise the results and all governments should follow suit.

Following his victory President Maduro called for a permanent dialogue process and former Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who monitored the election, has offered to mediate dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition.

Governments internationally should do all they can to facilitate and support such a process.

It is to be hoped that dialogue prevails. Any attempt to use violence to overturn constitutional mandates, including that of the democratically re-elected president, must be opposed.

However, the Trump administration does not support dialogue. Instead, it is continuing to seek ‘regime change’ by various means including harsh sanctions aimed at starving the country of financing, military threats and invoking the possibility of a coup.  These will only exacerbate the country’s difficulties and divisions, not facilitate dialogue.

  • VSC CC Statement, May 21 2018.
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Speech at Labour Party State of the Economy Conference, May 19th

Jeremy Corby at British Steel

Tony Burke – ‘Brexit and the post Brexit economy and Labour’s Industrial Strategy’

Intro – Brexit

Thank you for the invite to speak today. I would like to start by saying something very briefly about ‘Brexit’.

The main objectives for Unite – and the wider Labour movement – is to work to protect and defend jobs, employment and trade union rights, investment, access to skills, in the EU withdrawal negotiating process and as the outcomes of political and legal processes that are unfolding domestically.

Specifically for us means the defence of workers’ rights and protections underpinned by EU legislation and their retention in primary legislation, alongside wider social and environmental protections.

And it means securing tariff-free access to a single market – and membership of a customs union, which for all sectors of our economy offers the best chance of protecting decent, well paid jobs particularly in manufacturing that could move out of the UK.

That is why Unite supports the ‘Six tests’ set out by Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership on any final Brexit deal.

But that is not the total extent of Unite’s vision – and it is not the limit to our analysis of what is necessary in this country to ensure the future security of, and better living standards for, our members and wider society.

We need to place Brexit in its proper context if we are having a discussion about the economy and industrial strategy.

So what led to Brexit and long term problems?

Firstly, let’s be clear about what has happened in this country over decades.

Chronic under-investment over decades stunted the overall level of economic growth.

Our country languishes near the bottom of nearly every OECD table giving investment levels on transport, communications, energy and housing.

This overarching macro-economic really policy matters – because it determines the jobs we will keep or lose, the jobs we do or don’t create as a society, and the living standards of us all.

The contours of our industrial landscape have been re-shaped as the free market was allowed to rip through our manufacturing base, local communities and public services.

Jobs growth over the past 30 plus years has been in low-paid, low-skilled, low job security occupations – with a raw focus on transition into ‘any job’ – with ‘quantity over quality’.

This has been combined with political policies to strangle trade unions and weaken employment rights that have led to a fall in collective bargaining, accelerating pay and wealth inequality and the growth in low paid and insecure work.

All of this has left us with an economy that is sectorally and geographically unbalanced, with low productivity, and a deeply unequal society.

And of course then we experienced the deepest financial crash on record.

Never ones to let a ‘crisis go to waste’, the Conservatives began their project of ‘austerity’ – directly leading to the slowest recovery on record.

Wages have still not recovered their pre-crisis levels – as highlighted by last weeks TUC march for a ‘New Deal for Working People’.

The current weakness in the UK economy has been widely acknowledged, and although it remains politically expedient for the government to repeatedly blame external events the weakness is a result of government policies.

This history is worth remembering because we still have a government’s whose plan appears to be simply to ‘dig in and carry on’ with the very policies that helped to further entrench the anxiety and powerlessness felt by many as public services and benefits have been needlessly and ruthlessly cut, and saw employment and collective trade union rights further weakened – and which expressed themselves in the ‘Leave’ vote.

The concerns felt by millions of ordinary working people were expressed in the EU referendum – a result that was as much a rebuke to an out-of-touch political and economic elite as it was about the EU itself.

Those concerns pre-dated the referendum and they will continue to exist after a deal is negotiated.

It also highlights that there is now more than ever the need for an industrial and economic policy – such as Labour is putting forward – based on sustained public investment in our infrastructure to generate sustainable economic growth, that can crowd in private investment, enable an industrial strategy to flourish, to develop the industries of the future and for us to transition to a high pay, high-skill, low carbon economy with decent work for all – with stronger employment and trade union rights.

Britain needs to carve out a role for itself in the world as a competitive, cutting edge, high-skill economy – and Brexit and the coming fourth industrial revolution makes this even more necessary.

And a central part of that is an active industrial and manufacturing strategy.

Unite believes there is an active role for government to play in supporting our industries – state intervention shouldn’t just come as crisis intervention – such as we saw in steel two years ago – but an active industrial policy, as part of investing to create a stronger economy, is about government taking responsibility to make sure that things go right.

As Ha-Joon Chang argued two years ago at this conference – there is a need to ‘reindustrialise’ our economy, pointing out that ‘making things matters – this is what Britain forgot’. And government has a role in making this happen.

One thing Labour gets is that Manufacturing matters.

Labour’s industrial strategy is what Unite, business, industry, academics and many others had called for – for a long time – and we welcome its recognition of the need for an industrial strategy that covers not just rebuilding our manufacturing base but the whole economy.

But until we are successful in our fight to get Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10, John McDonnell as Chancellor and Becky Long-Bailey as our BEIS Secretary of State, we are left with this sorry, worn out, divided, do nothing government.

We have a government that is ideologically wedded to a failed economic model that would have stifled a coherent industrial strategy at birth.

And it was the Tories industrial strategy? Well, it was months late and not worth the wait.

A bumper document – an inch thick – bereft of ideas – that didn’t mention trade union participation and sees no role for the workforce in sector deals.

It is document that was long on words, big on typeface, and short on detail – and certainly no underpinning resources. Just a plethora of platitudes.

Unite is clear in our demands to this government – their mishandling of Brexit is magnifying their failure for a coherent industrial strategy and it is our members and all of us, working people in our millions, who will pay the price.

This country urgently needs;

  • investment in our infrastructure to remove the barriers to businesses basing themselves here,
  • investment in new technologies such as our car industry and electric vehicles, our shipbuilding industry – including the three new frigates that Jeremy Corbyn has said that under Labour – WILL be built in our shipyards with UK made steel and technology – our science and bio science industries, our aerospace and auto industry
  • support and defence for strategic and foundation industries like steel and engineering and defending and support for our companies like Bombardier GKN and DeLaRue
  • skills and training: access to skills and including the new skills we will need in this digital age and retraining in new skills
  • public procurement and a strategic investment bank
  • a revision of the UK legislation on takeovers, mergers and acquisitions
  • strong trade union and employment rights and sectoral collective bargaining so we all share in the rewards of economic growth.

Having worked with the leadership on an industrial strategy – with Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Becky Long Bailey, and their teams we in Unite know that they get it – they get that we need an industrial strategy that works for the many not the few.

This is also why the country and UK industry urgently needs a Labour government to make sure manufacturing really does matter.

Panel: Tony Burke, Unite; Laurie Macfarlane, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose; Lee Hopley, Engineering Employers Federation

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