Sunday, 9 September 2012

First woman general secretary of TUC to lead battle against government

The first woman to become general secretary of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has pledged to “lead the intellectual battle against the government’s self defeating austerity programme and win support for a credible alternative.”

Bold words from Frances O'Grady that will be tested when on 20 October, the TUC hopes to see hundreds of thousands of workers take to the streets to join its march and rally for “ a future that works. This will follow up the 500,000 plus demonstration against the cuts organised by the TUC last year.

Before that, the granddaughter of a founding member of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union will take over from present general secretary Brendan Barber at the TUC’s Congress in Brighton.

Ms O’Grady’s forbears were among those who followed that well-trod migrant path from Ireland to Britain.

She is a champion of migrant workers pointing out that their impact is sometimes underestimated.
"Many people bring their own very strong traditions to Britain. Those who have the guts to come over the water and start a new life here have often got the guts to organise their fellow workers," she said. A path that she has clearly pursued herself.
After doing a range of jobs, from working in shops or kitchens to the voluntary sector, she became a T&G rep. She then got a job at the union head office in Smith Square, Westminster. She later went onto the TUC, working on the organising side of union work. She later became deputy general secretary, a position she has held for the past nine years. "What always drove me was the basic issue of standing up for each other and looking after each other but also that bigger vision of a more equal society where power and wealth are more fairly distributed,” said Ms O’Grady, who is keen to take up the fight against what she sees as an unjust government.

“I will lead the argument for fundamental reform of the parts of the financial and banking system which took the country to the brink of disaster, including through the creation of a state investment bank to help the real economy, not least manufacturing and construction, get back on its feet,” said Ms O’Grady. “I'll also be stepping up the pressure for an ambitious employment programme that gives people dignity and time for a family life outside of work- not just dead-end jobs.”

The TUC will be also coordinating nationwide action for a living wage. “A living wage would help lift children out of poverty and give ordinary people a fair reward for the wealth that they produce. That means an end to greed at the top and putting the brake on those businesses that try to outsource their moral responsibility. Big business must be held to account for the treatment of workers down their supply chains, at home and abroad. There must be an end to remuneration committee closed shops by allowing ordinary workers a say over top pay. And British workplaces must be re-unionised to introduce a measure of power sharing and democracy into our economic life,” said Ms O’Grady.

The first woman general secretary is outraged that the burden for crisis created largely in the banking institutions of the City of London should effectively being paid for by some of the poorest families in the land. “Working families face a triple whammy of shrinking pay packets, rising bills and cuts in vital public services. This is the biggest squeeze in living standards since the 1920s. At 2.5 million, unemployment is high and a generation of young people face a very uncertain future. And to rub salt into the wound the government is planning to strip away basic employment rights by making it easier to sack workers and price ordinary people out of justice by introducing charges for employment tribunals,” said Ms O’Grady. “But it's now clear that all this sacrifice is in vain. The Chancellor's plan to reduce the deficit has patently failed. The government is set to borrow £158 billion more than it planned over the life of this parliament because the tax take is down, the benefits bill is up and the economy is tanking. Tax cuts for the rich have not delivered the trickle down effect that the government promised. Corporations are sitting on a mountain of cash pile but refuse to invest while demand is low. Inequality continues to grow with the concentration of wealth at the top actually escalating over the last year. The lessons are clear. You can't make a country richer by making its people poorer. The government should stop cutting and start investing in building affordable homes, greening our infrastructure and putting people back to work. But more than this we need a radical rethink of our economy and the obscene imbalance of wealth and power that many economists now agree led to the financial crash in the first place.”

1 comment:

  1. Well, let's hope she makes some progress. Otherwise, from what I've read, the UK is looking at a good 8-10 years of painful austerity. I'd reckon the City bankers will still make out fine, but other 98% will have a hard go of it.
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