Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite has warned that the lessons of the banking crash have not been learned by the political elite – and that this government is taking the nation backwards to a darker time for ordinary people.
He told the conference of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) on Saturday: “Politicians and aspects of the media are out of step with the public mood when it comes to making the economy fairer, pointing to the growing support for a return to public ownership of vital utilities like fuel and water”.
He also pledged that under his leadership, Unite will `”carry on making sure that bad bosses have no place to hide’ and that this will not abate until workers secure the right `to stand up to the outrageous pressure of the employers”.
“The next election will determine the political economy of Britain for the foreseeable future. It will determine if the lessons of the crash of 2008 have been learned, and if we are able to turn a corner towards a different way of organising our economy and, indeed, our society. Events of the last few weeks at Grangemouth really tell us all we need to know about our economy in 2013.
“They reveal the almost unlimited power of private ownership, the right of one man to do as he wants with a vital national economic asset, even to the point of closing it down regardless of the consequences.
“They highlight the vast legal disadvantages trade unions labour under in trying to protect members’ pay and conditions.
“They show the weakness of politicians and their incapacity to act under globalisation.
“In fact, these events sum up the vast inequality of power – not just income – which is the product of the neo-liberal domination of our thinking and our politics from 1979 onwards.
“They show that, despite the elite bankers’ crisis, we have yet to move on.”
Pointing to the “hysterical reaction” to Ed Miliband’s conference speech, he said: “Control of energy prices for a year and a half and action against property developers who don’t build on their land; two measures which would help ordinary people stay warm in winter, and would help our children get a roof over their heads”.
“Yet even this mild transgression against the dogmas of the market was met with howls of rage. It was “back to the 70s”.
“To which my only answer to the Tories might be – Yes, but only the 1970s. Your ideology is taking us back to the 1870s, and the days of pure free-market liberalism, with no role for the state, no social safety net, and no curb on the bosses’ power.”
He called for a political economy that recognises `we are a community, not just a marketplace, which puts the public first, rather than vested interest.’
Pledging to continue to challenge the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of the few that has become more marked under the Coalition, he said: “I take a measure of comfort from the attacks of the last week on my union. We are being attacked because we are a threat. For the media “ugly trade unionism” merely means effective trade unionism”.
“So, yes, we are going to carry on making sure that bad bosses have no place to hide. And we are also going to put at the heart of our political work the need to secure new laws which guarantee trade union freedom and the rights of workers to stand up to the outrageous pressure of the employers.”