‘Nasty & repressive side of the government is revealed’ – Unite and GMB react to Queen’s speech

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Striking Go North West bus drivers on the picket line at Manchester’s Queens Road depot – fighting the company's 'fire and rehire' policy

RESPONDING to yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, the Unite union’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: ‘This Queen’s Speech reveals the nasty, repressive side of this government.

‘The moves on voter ID that could see millions of young and poor people lose their vote, alongside the plan to curtail the right to protest – long and dearly held in this country – should be ringing very loud alarm bells.

‘We will fight both because they are dangerous, backward steps, a landgrab by the powerful to deny the people a voice.’

Before the speech McCluskey had called on PM Johnson to be the workers’ friend and repeal any ‘Fire and Rehire’ laws but he was disappointed. He made no comment on Johnson’s refusal.

He left this issue to Howard Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary for legal and politics. He said: ‘Working people will be bitterly disappointed that the prime minister has failed to use this opportunity to outlaw Fire and Rehire.

‘Instead of desperately needed protection from what the government itself calls a bully boy practice, all workers will get from Boris Johnson’s government are warm words.

‘But with one-in-10 working people being told to take a massive pay cut or take a hike, we will keep hounding the Tories on this until they act to end Fire and Rehire.’

Commenting, Dave Wiltshire, National Secretary of the All Trades Unions Alliance, said: ‘The Unite leaders called on Johnson to end ‘Fire and Rehire’. Of course he refused.

‘Now these leaders must be forced to call a general strike to get the Johnson government out before millions more workers are subjected to Fire and Rehire.

‘If they won’t call a general strike they must be removed.’

The Unite leaders did however find something to be pleased about.

‘The government’s promise to “build back safer” is noted but if it is serious, then it must get trade unions around the table. Our army of health and safety experts have been incredible during this crisis.

‘They are on the frontline and their knowledge and experience, alongside a reversal in the senseless cuts to funding of our safety regulators, must be put to proper use as we reopen the economy.

‘But where this country really needs urgent action – on dignified, decent affordable care for our vulnerable – the prime minister has failed to step up.

‘A huge lesson of this pandemic is that our NHS desperately needs a functioning, accessible social care system and the absence of any plan for this in the Queen’s Speech is a serious absence of leadership, vision and responsibility.’

GMB, Britain’s general union, described the Queen’s Speech as ‘an historic missed opportunity’ to level up workers’ rights.

Warren Kenny, GMB Acting General Secretary, said: ‘With the pandemic easing, this was the government’s opportunity to show it could deliver for working people.

‘We have been fobbed off repeatedly by Ministers with promises to level up workers’ rights with an Employment Bill. Well, the Bill is still missing in action.

‘The government promised to make the UK the best place in the world to work, while it is leaving bosses free to use nefarious tactics like fire and rehire with impunity.

‘Warm words on workers’ rights are betrayed by this government’s abject lack of leadership. This is an historic missed opportunity at a time when unscrupulous employers are exploiting the pandemic to attack good quality jobs.

‘The social care system has been shown to be broken and our carers are being forgotten by government again.

‘Much delayed reform can no longer wait, we need the details of a plan that will invest in the sector and workforce, not more vague promises.’

Among the Queens Speech measures are scrapping the fixed term Parliament; The Health Bill which opens the NHS up for privatisation; and the controversial Police Bill which attacks the right to protest and demonstrate; and the Immigration Bill.