Ed Miliband comments on Unite4Jobs at the Unite the Union conference in Brighton - Thu, Jun 28, 2012
Video from BBC
I want to thank Len McCluskey and Tony Woodhouse for your invitation to be here.
Away from the headlines, across the country, your union often plays a vital role helping working people and their firms to succeed.
That is what we’ve seen at Ellesmere Port.
Unite working together with General Motors to bring 700 new skilled jobs to Merseyside.
Working together to secure the long-term future of the plant.
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Working together to secure a potential future until 2020 and beyond.
Without Unite, Ellesmere Port would not have been saved.
Let us all pay tribute to all of those involved in the work at Ellesmere Port.
And at thousands of other workplaces around the country.
Through your community membership, you are reaching out.
Through initiatives like the Unite Jobs board, which helps people find jobs in their area.
Showing that trade unions can help not just those in work, but also those looking for work.
That is the modern future for trade unionism.
And I applaud this work.
And I also want to pay tribute to Diana Holland.
While the Government were making the oil tankers dispute worse, ramping up the rhetoric by talking about jerry cans, she was trying to resolve it in a dignified way.
Your job is to represent your members.
My job is to lead the Labour Party.
Of course we will have differences.
I will be candid about them and so will you.
But we have to find new ways of working together for Britain.
That should be true of any Government.
That’s why today I want to talk about our economy, its present, its future, and how we can work together to change it.
I want to start by talking about the revelations about Barclays.
Nine months ago in my Conference Speech I talked about irresponsible, predatory capitalism.
Today we see one of the worst cases yet.
Millions of pounds being made by bending the rules, rigging the system to the cost of ordinary borrowers and savers.
The banks told us they had cleaned up their act.
But this shines a light on what has really been going on.
Three things need to happen:
First, this cannot be about a slap on the wrist, a fine and the foregoing of bonuses.
To believe that is the end of the matter would be totally wrong.
When ordinary people break the law, they face charges, prosecution and punishment.
We need to know who knew what when, and criminal prosecutions should follow against those who broke the law.
The same should happen here.
The public who are paying the price for bankers’ irresponsibility will expect nothing less.
Second, the Government should urgently look at the regulation of this area of banking.
We need to change the way things are run so that this can never happen again.
Third, there is a much wider issue about the culture of parts of the banking industry.
This shines a light on a swaggering culture which is not about serving the public, but serving itself by whatever means necessary.
Too many people in the banks clearly think they were big to fail, too powerful to be challenged.
They clearly believed they could do anything they liked and were above the law.
This is yet another example of some of the rich and powerful having their own moral standards, just as we saw during phone hacking.
We cannot have a country where this happens.
That is why we need the strongest punishment, a change in regulation and a change in the culture of our banks.
We need banks that serve a more responsible capitalism, working for the majority of the people and enabling us to pay in our world.
The failure of our banks is part of an economy that does not work for the working people of this country.
Stopped working for the people whose living standards are being squeezed.
Stopped working for young people like the young couple I met on a train recently.
She was working long hours at a hospital to pay her way through university.
And he had studied aerospace engineering for five years at Cranfield University.
He’d been looking for a job in aerospace for nearly two years.
This country had made an investment in him by subsidising his university fees.
Now we are wasting his talent, that investment.
That’s a tragedy for him and a tragedy for our country.
It’s why the next Labour Government will need to rebuild our economy.
Because instead of rebuilding our economy, this Government is tearing out its foundations.
They have turned a recovery into a recession.
We have a double-dip recession made in Downing Street.
And still David Cameron says ‘you call it austerity, I call it efficiency.’
Who is he trying to kid?
He says Britain is ‘headed in the right direction’.
What planet is he on?
Why are the Tories so out of touch?
Because they are listening to the wrong people.
They are listening to those who already have power and influence and not to the working people of this country.
They make policy with cosy kitchen suppers for the privileged.
Cosy country suppers for the powerful.
But in Tory Britain there is no place at the table for the decent hardworking families of this country.
We know it’s wrong.
And it would be different under a Labour Government.
But they are not just out of touch because they listen to the wrong people.
But also because they have the wrong ideas.
The wrong ideology.
Cutting taxes for millionaires while raising them for millions.
Trickle down economics.
Giving money to those at the top while taking it away from the rest of the country.
And making it easier to fire people when they should be making it easier to hire people.
It’s wrong and it doesn’t work.
Let’s call it what it is.
Old-fashioned Tory economics.
And making the problems of our country worse not better.
Ask the workers at Coryton oil refinery.
Where hundreds will now lose their jobs.
The Government had a clear choice:
Do all it could to help save the refinery.
Or stand aside and do nothing.
The Government said their hands were tied because of the European Commission.
But they didn’t even ask the Commission.
If other governments can fight to keep their refineries open, why can’t ours?
Why can’t our Government even try?
It’s yet more proof that this Government doesn’t stand up for the working people of Britain.
And Britain doesn’t just need a change of government.
It needs a change of ideas.
And a change of mindset.
Because what is the other problem with this government?
It is that they really do believe that there is no alternative.
They really do believe the 1930s idea that when you’re in a global downturn there is nothing that can be done.
And so we have the spectacle of the powerful saying to the powerless:
‘We’re in for a few bad years and there’s nothing we can do to change it.’
They’re not the ones who will suffer but they say it all the same.
The G20 Summit comes and goes.
The European Summit will come and go.
But what do we get from the British Prime Minister?
The same old mantra:
‘There is no alternative.’
The same mindset that has been failing us for these last two years.
Friends, you know and I know:
Of course there is an alternative.
There is always an alternative.
If Labour was in Government, we would get our economy growing again.
Encouraging businesses to take on new workers.
Investing in our infrastructure.
And putting our young people back to work.
It’s just wrong that so many young people like the aerospace engineer I met are on the dole for one year, two years, three years.
Long-term youth unemployment has more than doubled in the last year alone.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
I say, we say:
Tax the bankers’ bonuses and guarantee jobs for those young people.
A Labour Government would get our young people working again.
But we don’t just need change in the short-term.
We need to rebuild our economy from the ground up.
We need to look further back than the current crisis or the current Government.
For too long, we have had an economy that doesn’t work for most working people.
An economy where industry too often serves finance rather than finance serving industry.
An economy where too many young people leave school without hope of a real career.
And an economy where people are in poverty even though they working hard.
We need to change all that.
That will be the task of the next Labour Government.
And this task will be even more important because of the mess the Government has made of things.
The hard truth is this:
Whoever wins the next election will inherit a deficit.
And because there will be less money around, the best route to social justice will be through changing our economy so that it works for working people.
And let me tell you about my vision of the economy for the future.
It’s an economy where real engineering is as important as financial engineering.
Where every young person, whether they go to university or not, feels that they have the skills and training they need for a successful career.
Where we encourage companies to invest not for the short-term but for the long-term.
And where nobody who works is in poverty.
So how do we build it?
It can’t be built simply on the basis of old-style free market economics.
It can only be built on government, employers and unions understanding their role and playing their part.
Government needs to back the sectors that will succeed in the future.
That means a modern industrial strategy with a vision and a plan of how we can succeed as a country.
It means backing small businesses and addressing the financial barriers they face, with ideas like a British Investment Bank.
And it means taking skills seriously.
That’s why the next Labour Government will say:
‘You won’t get a major Government contract unless you offer apprenticeships for the next generation.’
For employers and unions, it will often mean working together.
At times, there will be conflict between workers and employers.
You will stand your ground.
And employers will stand theirs.
But you show every hour of every day, up and down the country in the work you do, that cooperation is the best way forward for the people you represent.
Sometimes this is difficult.
Like over the London bus dispute.
We all want the Olympics to be a success.
The eyes of the world will be upon us.
The best way to resolve this dispute is by all sides getting round a table and negotiating a solution.
I know you believe that and have called for that again in the last twenty-four hours.
But we cannot let industrial action disrupt the Olympics, and damage this special moment for Britain.
And all sides must ensure that doesn’t happen.
And we must make sure that every employer in the country fulfils their obligations to their workforce.
But we have not won that battle yet.
Friends, the minimum wage was one of Labour’s proudest achievements.
But far too many people in this country are still not paid the minimum wage.
Only seven companies have ever been prosecuted for not paying it.
Is there anyone here who believes that only seven have broken the law and exploited labour?
We all know the realities.
The Labour Party and the Unions campaigned together to establish the minimum wage in law.
Now we must campaign together to make sure it is enforced.
I talked last week about the fact that we have some recruitment agencies in this country employing migrant labour and closing their books to workers from Britain.
So that they can bring in workers who are unorganised and unprotected.
Unite works to recruit workers from all backgrounds into the union, so that they get the protection and representation they deserve.
We didn’t do enough in Government.
Including on agency workers, where we acted too late.
We need to do more.
More to make sure that everyone is paid the minimum wage – no matter where they come from.
More to stop a race to the bottom on building sites, in hotels and kitchens, in food processing plants up and down this country.
And we’re not going to wait until we’re back in power to do this.
We’re starting now.
We’re launching a campaign to highlight cases of exploitation of working people in Britain – wherever they are from.
A campaign to gather that information to help us build the case for change.
So businesses can say “I know something’s not right in my sector of the economy.”
“Some of my competitors are breaking the rules.”
So workers can safely say “I am being exploited”.
“I am being paid less than the minimum wage.”
But it’s not just about the minimum wage either.
The “minimum” should never be the summit of our ambition for the working people of this country.
That’s why we are working with representatives from trade unions - including Unite - local authorities and civil society to campaign for the next step.
For a decent living wage.
Starting in local government.
You know a couple of weeks ago I met somebody, a cleaner, who said to me that she’d taken the step of writing to the leader of her council to thank him.
And I asked her why.
She said she was writing to thank him for starting to pay her the Living Wage.
So let us congratulate Labour councils like Birmingham for committing to paying the Living Wage to every one of their workers.
That’s how we start building a better economy for the future.
Because we will never rebuild Britain’s economy if it is based on the wrong foundations:
If it based on low wages, low skills, fast buck, and take what you can.
The best employers know this.
Labour knows it.
You know it too.
So we have to change our economy, but we have to change our politics as well.
You and I know that people don’t think politics can make a difference.
They don’t believe that politicians keep their promises.
They think that whoever is in power, things will be the same.
Including some of your members.
We won’t change that overnight.
But we do need to change it.
With a politics that is realistic about the promises it can keep.
A politics that stands up for the many not just for the powerful few.
And we need a politics where politicians look like the constituents they represent.
That’s not what Westminster looks like today.
That’s why I say we should not rest until 50 per cent of Labour’s MPs are women.
We should not rest until many more of our Trade Union leaders are women.
That’s why I say we should not rest until ethnic minorities are properly represented in our party.
And we should not rest until we deal with one of the most glaring omissions:
The lack of working class representation in our politics.
That’s why I have asked Jon Trickett from our Shadow Cabinet to lead our work on this issue.
I knew when I became leader of the Labour Party that our party should have one clear mission.
To ensure we are a one-term Opposition.
Not for ourselves.
But because of what this Government was going to do to Britain.
Two years on I feel that more strongly than ever.
I believe in a more equal, fairer, more just Britain.
We’re not the public economy and the private economy.
We are one economy.
We’re not the north and the south.
We are people from right across Britain who share aspirations, hopes and dreams for the future.
And we’re a country that succeeds or fails together.
At the elections in May the British people gave Labour a platform.
I intend to seize that opportunity.
To show how we will rebuild our economy so it works for working people.
To create a society that is united not divided.
And build a politics that people can believe in.
There are entrepreneurs and trade union members, builders and teachers, and working people across the country who all share this vision.
Let’s work together to make it happen.
Let’s rebuild Britain.