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General Secretary Speech At Equality Conference

Monday, February 29, 2016

New GMB General Secretary Tells National Equality Conference In Cardiff That Workplace Rights Must Be At The Centre Of The EU Debate

Our continued EU membership will add to the armoury we have to deal with Cameron’s relentless march towards his ‘us and them’ society says GMB General Secretary.


Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, speaking at the GMB National Equality Conference in Cardiff told delegates that workplace rights must be at the centre of the EU debate in the forthcoming referendum. See notes to Editors for the text of his full speech.

The GMB National Equality Conference is being held in Cardiff from 29th February to 2nd March. Speakers at the event include Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, John Phillips, Regional Secretary GMB Wales & South West, Vaughan Gething, Member of Welsh Assembly, Luciana Berger MP, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, and, Dr Mwenya Chimba, Director of Violence Against Women.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, speaking at the conference said as follows “Equality cannot be achieved in isolation, or be standing alone, away from the mainstream work of the GMB. Equality has to be integrated, assimilated and incorporated into everything the GMB does. Each and every one of us in this room has a responsibility in driving Equality through inclusion.

GMB will begin the campaign to stay part of the European Union. The interest of GMB members are best served by remaining in the EU.
See notes to editors for copies of previous GMB statements on the EU referendum.

It was the EU that we looked to safeguard our lives at work and in our communities. For example, laws on working time; employment contracts; worker’s rights during transfer of undertakings; informing and consulting workers; maternity rights and parental leave. Particularly relevant at this conference, the EU gave us directives outlawing discrimination on the grounds of your race, gender, disability, sexuality, age and religion or belief.

Europe is far from perfect but at this moment in time, our continued membership will add to the armoury we have to deal with Cameron’s relentless march towards his ‘us and them’ society. A society where employers will be ‘gung ho’ and free to abuse and exploit their employees.

GMB exists to recruit, organise and represent workers. We want to improve wages and conditions at work. We will challenge all forms of discrimination and restore people’s dignity. I say to you loud and clear - join me in achieving this vision and together we can deliver Equality through inclusion.”

End

Contact: Kamaljeet Jandu on 07956 237 178 or GMB press office on 020 7391 6755, 07970 863 411 or 07739 182 691

Notes to Editors

1 Tim Roache GMB General Secretary - Speech to GMB Trident Conference Thursday 25th February 2016

Sisters, Brothers and Chair

I stand here today on my first formal day at work as the General Secretary of this fantastic union. I am deeply honoured, humbled and it is an absolute privilege to be your General Secretary.  

I am immensely proud to share this moment with you – at the ninth GMB National Equality Conference.

Can I thank the John Philips, the Regional Secretary and Sheila Beacroft, the President of the GMB Wales and South West for hosting this conference?

Also, I want to thank Paul Kenny our ex General Secretary for growing the GMB, protecting GMB members and defending working communities from the vicious onslaught from this Conservative Government.

Can I also thank Brian Shaw and Farzana Jummu, for their leadership in stewarding the GMB’s strategy on Equality for the last six years.

Equality through inclusion has come on leaps and bounds in the GMB. Every GMB Region or Country now has its own Regional Equality Forum, an active young members’ network, an active LGBT Shout group and an active GMB Sisters group.

Equality cannot be achieved in isolation, or be standing alone away from the main stream work of the GMB. Equality has to be integrated, assimilated and incorporated into everything the GMB does. Each and every one of us in this room has a responsibility in driving Equality through inclusion.

Chair, the starting pistol has been fired on the EU referendum on whether we stay in or leave the European Union. Friends, we are only on the first lap and there will be many twists and turns until we go into that election booth on the 23rd June to put our cross in the Yes or No box.

You would think from the media coverage so far, that the referendum was about Boris Johnson and David Cameron and their fight for the leadership of the Tory party. One has a gigantic ego and wants to be Prime Minister and the other is the Prime Minister who has done more U turns than a Black cab! One is Murdoch’s man and the other used to be Murdoch’s man.

Let me be absolutely clear: GMB will begin the campaign to stay part of the European Union. This is not because we dislike Boris or dislike David Cameron less, but because the interests of GMB members are best served by remaining in the EU.

Let me explain why.

We have a Government hell bent on taking Britain back to the Victorian era. They want to create a society of ‘have and have not’. A society of ‘us and them’. A society where the powerful are getting richer and the vulnerable weaker.

GMB does not want a divided society.

Nobody is focusing on the day to day impact of the EU on the lives of ordinary people.

During the Thatcher era, within a year of her coming to power - she attacked trade unions. So it became more difficult to defend jobs, decent wages and conditions at work.

Let’s not forget, the devastation she heaped in Wales. The communities that supported the Welsh mining and steel industries were wrecked, leaving deep scares and destroying lives.

It was the EU that we looked too to safeguard our lives at work and in our communities. For example laws on working time; employment contracts; worker’s rights during transfer of undertakings; informing and consulting workers; maternity rights and parental leave and so on. Particularly relevant at this conference, the EU gave us directives outlawing discrimination on the grounds of your race, gender, disability, sexuality, age and religion or belief.

We meet in Cardiff – a city that attracted EU resources for economic development and therefore jobs followed.

Don’t get me wrong, the EU needs reforming - as it is still far too stacked in favour of employers. EU feels like this big monolith, over there, across the channel - it does need changing. We need to make it relevant to ordinary working people….but being out side of the EU will unleash further attacks on workers’ rights and human rights.

Friends - make no mistake workers’ rights are on the line in this referendum.
Our rights at work have to be at the heart of the EU debate.

Europe is far from perfect but at this moment in time, our continued membership will add to the armoury we have to deal with the Cameron’s relentless march towards his ‘us and them’ society. A society where employers will be ‘gung ho’ and free to abuse and exploit their employees.

Let’s not dodge or fudge the hard questions – that’s not my style.

People say that the EU migration as driven down wages and employment conditions.

This Government has allowed employers to only recruit workers from other parts of Europe - without giving local people in Wales, in Scotland, in Northern Ireland and England - the an opportunity to apply for these jobs.

It’s the exploiters that need to be reined in not the exploited. This Government is determined to facilitate the exploitation of workers - indigenous or otherwise. They refuse to challenge low wages, bad conditions and exploitation.

It’s not migrants that have caused the housing shortage. Successive Governments have not built enough homes. This Government has a housing policy that benefits corporate landlords, the finance sector and the already wealthy.

It’s not the migrants that have caused ward closures, increases in waiting times or patients finding themselves on trolley’s in hospital corridors. It is this Government that wants to starve the NHS of funding and sell NHS services to their friends in the private sector.

By coming out of the EU the Tory’s will be given free rein to slash and burn the social protection that many in our country need.

Let me give you an example of this.

In the last ten years, we have witnessed the proliferation of zero hour contracts, greater insecurity at work, low wages and ever decreasing in work benefits such as maternity leave. Under this climate the jobs that have been created represent the death of the real job.

The notion that workers should be valued or be rewarded with decent wages and security are being dismantled. Agency working, unpredictable and unsocial hours that are terminated without notice - no holiday pay, no sick pay and wages well below the living wage. This is the reality of many workers. No wonder this sort of labour market attracts the young, the single and migrants.

It is under these conditions that this Government is leading a sustained attack on the trade union organisation. They want to muzzle our voice. Having already made fundamental changes to employment and equality legislation, they are now driving the passage of the Trade Union Bill in Parliament.

The Trade Union Bill, based on Tory ideology, is designed to curtail the legitimate business of trade unions. It will establish additional hurdles for trade unions to organise and protect our members.
 

As you know there are many myths about trade unions. One myth is that all we do is ‘go on strike.’ My message to politicians is that - Strikes are the last resort for most workers. Who can afford to lose a day’s pay - when you are already living on the margin?

Britain does not have a “strike problem”. The 6.5 million British people belong to a union – 640,000 are in the GMB. On average - strike action has been taken for one day only, in 15 years!  Let me repeat that again – one day in 15 years!

Britain is strike-free.

The Tories want to the ‘turn the knife’ into trade unions so their friends are free to use, abuse and exploit. The TU Bill is ideologically driven, unnecessary and very bad policy.

One of the proposals in the Bill will allow employers to bring in agency workers for strikers during disputes. These agency workers may be asked to undertake technically demanding jobs that they are not qualified for. This will further poison any cooperation and conciliation between employer and workers to resolve differences.

Basic civil liberties are under attack, the freedom of association will have implications way beyond unions.

Another proposal in the TU Bill concerns the thresholds of taking industrial action – 50% turnout of those eligible to vote and 40% in favour of action. Fewer than one in five ballots result in strikes - We are unlikely to undermine our own negotiating power by calling for action that is likely to fail. Let’s be clear, if they used the proposed threshold for industrial disputes for the General Elections – majority of the MP’s would not get elected.  

If the Government genuinely wants to make unions responsive to their members there is one useful step they can take:

Simply remove the legal impediments to electronic balloting. GMB will rise to the challenges in the Trade Union Bill – but do not tie our hands behind our back. Allow electronic balloting.

I applaud the decision of the Welsh Assembly and some public sector employers in their opposition the Trade Union Bill. GMB will fight ‘tooth and nail’ and continue to oppose the draconian trade union bill.

Under my leadership ‘Organising’ will remain at the core of the GMB. It is lay members, the activists that are the life line of the GMB – this will not only remain under my leadership but will be encouraged.

I will create space for GMB activists, like you, to step up and challenge inequality, unfairness and discrimination. GMB exists to recruit, organise and represent workers.

We want to improve wages and conditions at work. We will challenge all forms of discrimination and restore people’s dignity. I say to you load and clear - join me in achieving this vision.

And together we can deliver Equality through inclusion.

2 Copy of previous GMB press release dated Monday, February 22, 2016

EU Referendum Will Be Biggest Decision In A Generation For GMB Members And Their Families

The vote is about our future, about a vision of what a social Europe can bring, so it’s time to be positive about the benefits to our economy, jobs and our environment says GMB.

The GMB Central Executive Council meeting on 9th February considered the progress in the renegotiation of the UK membership of the European Union and the forthcoming referendum on 23rd June and agreed to issue a statement on the GMB position. See notes to editors for previous GMB statements on the issue.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary, said “A vote on whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or not is rushing towards us and is the biggest decision in a generation for GMB members and their families.

This is a massive moment which could dramatically change the lives of working people and their families for generations to come.

Have no doubt this vote matters, it matters a lot.

One of the worst kept secrets is that the EU needs reform. The vision of a social Europe raising living standards and building the economies of new member states has lost its way. In truth it has been diverted by business interests over working families.

The exploitation of people desperate for a better life has been growing in recent years. Undercutting wage rates and denying local people jobs has become the visible signs of this corporate exploitation. It's wrong, it's outrageous and it is completely stoppable. Not by voting to leave the EU, but by demanding a return to that vision of a social Europe.

Does anybody actually believe that the European laws on things like maternity and parental leave, health and safety protections, equal rights for part time workers, TUPE ,paid holidays and so much more would be protected by the Conservatives, UKIP or any of their fellow travellers? Dream on if you do.

This crucial vote should not be about a protest or to save David Cameron's skin but about our future, your future. During the referendum campaign we will all be bombarded with opinions, statistics, misinformation, the media telling you how to think and plain old fashioned lies and prejudice.  

GMB will be honest and informative throughout the process. GMB will not seek or promote any argument that pitches worker against worker. This coming vote is about our future, about a vision of what a social Europe can bring.

It's time to be positive about the benefits to our economy, jobs and our environment.

The closeness of the polls must be the wakeup call for those in Westminster and Brussels that the British people are serious about change and change for the better but the harsh straight fact is that we cannot get that change by voting to leave the EU.

To enable the union to get our very specific messages across our campaign will not be allied with any of the 'remain' organisations.”

End

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