In my view working people will always need unions.
I’ve been in the Labour Party 36 years and a union member for as long as I’ve worked.
I worked in contract compliance for the GLC/ILEA, ensuring that our suppliers and contractors followed good employment and non discrimination policies. In that job, I was a workplace union rep.
One of my early jobs, at Lambeth Council I planned the first workplace nursery, at a time when they were only just coming into discussion; and recruited the first trainee women plumbers and electricians in the direct labour organisation.
Later, working at the GMB, I helped organise its political fund ballot.
I’m glad that one of our hustings was dedicated to trade unions. At that event, I recounted how as a new MP, I campaigned with the then ISTC (now Community) at the largest employer in my constituency. Dialogue was hard. And the management in those days dragged their feet until we forced a ballot. I wrote to every employee and stood at the factory gate. We won. It became the largest branch in the Union.
Some years later I championed the first rate apprenticeship programme at this firm. For me, you can be pro-worker and pro-business.
It also doesn’t surprise me that more disputes occur in firms where there is no recognised union.
But I’ve also never thought that public employers were perfect either. I remember working with Amicus to help electricians at a local hospital whose management cancelled their retention payments.
MPs can always help foster dialogue, partnership and certainly champion and promote good employment practice.
Likewise, one of the things I valued about Community union was they understood that their members concerns didn’t end when they left the factory gate. So we campaigned on drugs at work and drugs in the community as well.
I believe our party can benefit from a Deputy Leader who has come from the grassroots, who has workplace experience, understands trade unions, has been a working parent and has a track record in Parliament of standing up for union recognition and good employment practice.
Our aim must be to improve the lives of working people but we will only achieve that if we get our party into shape to win again.
Millions of ordinary workers voted Tory because they did not trust us, or felt ignored by us. Millions more came to the conclusion that UKIP or the SNP would shake up the establishment more than we would.
We have to get our message on the economy right.
I want Labour to champion fairness and responsibility.
It is vital we argue for balancing the books, protecting public investment and for fair employment and union laws.
Socialists should never be happy about more money being spent on debt payments than education.
And those with the broadest shoulders must play their part.
We should never give up on the hope that we can build a society where we all play by the same rules, where hard work is rewarded and no one is left behind. We can only have that society if we have a Labour government.
If we all work together, in the true spirit of what trade unionism and the Labour party is all about, we can get back to winning ways in 2020. And I want to play my part as Deputy Leader.