Len McCluskey, leader of the giant Unite union, said so many industrial communities voted Leave because they felt “left behind” by globalisation, austerity, cuts in services and downward pressure on wages.
In a speech on the opening day of the TUC conference in Brighton, which is set to be dominated by Brexit, Mr McCluskey said: “Out of the EU must not mean out of work.”
There was no mention from the firebrand Unite leader of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s low-key role in the referendum campaign, which has been criticised by many of the party’s MPs and blamed for the Leave vote.
Minutes later, following Mr McCluskey in the Brexit debate, the leader of another big union, Dave Prentis of Unison, hit out at the disarray and feuding in the Labour Party after a referendum in which “people voted in good faith” to leave the EU.
Calling for an “electable” Labour Party, Mr Prentis said: “The Labour Party must get back to the job of providing a proper opposition and showing it is an alternative government in waiting. We need you. Don’t let our members down.”
But Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union said it was “ridiculous” to blame Mr Corbyn for the Leave vote.
“The fact is that his scepticism about the EU reflected the concerns of my union and many other people,” he said.
Earlier, before the conference got under way, the TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady told Sky News workers must not pay the price of Brexit with their jobs, employment rights and European investment in the UK.
In his speech, Mr McCluskey said unions had to “pick up the pieces” after the Brexit vote to protect workers’ rights and defend jobs against “an unsympathetic government” and growing economic uncertainty.
But he warned the unions: “We also need to recognise why we lost – above all, why so many industrial communities voted to Leave.”It shouldn’t be a mystery. Far too much of Britain has been left behind by globalisation. Whole industries have disappeared, leaving communities derelict and generations without hope.”Pile on austerity and cuts in services on top, with relentless downward pressure on wages, an elite that has passed the burdens of the crisis onto the less fortunate and it is not surprising that millions of people, including significant numbers of our members, voted to give the establishment a kicking.”
He said the union movement had to accept the democratic decision of the people, but added: “Our basic demands are no reduction in workers’ rights, no loss of jobs and an immediate end to the shameful racist backlash which has taken hold since the referendum.”Calling upon unions to seize the challenge of Brexit, Mr McCluskey added: “This is an opportunity to reconnect with our members in abandoned communities, an opportunity to break with failed economics and to start the debate as to what sort of country we want Britain to be.”
News Source SkyNews