On Monday 2nd January, Unite West Midlands official Gerard Coyne addressed a Birmingham group of supporters as part of his campaign to take the Unite leadership from Len McCluskey.
He framed the speech around the issue of border control, stating
“There is one principle on which the UK government should not even begin to negotiate. That is over the question of control of our borders… for the many Britons facing insecurity in the job market, who rely on public services such as the NHS and state schools, and who need affordable homes, the presence of a very large number of foreign nationals has added to the pressures they already face at a time of austerity.
Theresa May and other ministers should not wait until Article 50 has been triggered to set out a negotiating position on free movement of labour. They should be saying now, without equivocation, that the issue is non-negotiable. There can be no compromise on the principle of taking back control of our borders.”
Trades Unionists have experienced first hand the impact of austerity for our members. We have seen wages drop, hours and workload rise, and in some cases safety being put at risk. There has been one group and one group alone to benefit from this attack on the workforce, and that group is the rich, not migrant workers.
At a time when hate crime is rising, with foreign workers increasingly at risk of being attacked on our streets, it is truly irresponsible for Coyne to use his platform to chase populist votes. Instead of highlighting the lack of investment in our infrastructure and public services, he chose to pander to the scapegoating of migrants. This was a clear betrayal of union members who rely on his leadership in organising to take on the attacks on pay and conditions.
When Trades Unionists allow, or worse, encourage the story to be told that it is migrant workers who destroy jobs and conditions, we do the bosses’ work for them. We only ever win when we have solidarity as workers and fight together for better conditions for all. When we allow groups of workers to be used as scapegoats for the failures of employers and the state, we compete against one another for scraps instead of fighting together for victory.
We therefore condemn Gerard Coyne’s comments in Birmingham as divisive, counterproductive, and dangerous for West Midlands workers.
Rhiannon Lockley (Chair, West Midlands UCU)
Nicky Downes (Equalities officer, Coventry NUT)
Doug Morgan (President, Birmingham NUT)
Andrew Scattergood (Brigade Chair, West Midlands FBU)
Kirsten Forkert (Higher Education Chair, West Midlands UCU)
Dave Muritu (National Equality Chair and Black Members Rep, UCU)
Lou Harrisen Powis (Assistant Branch Secretary, Sandwell Unison)
Martin Lynch (President, Dudley NUT)
Matt Raine (Branch Secretary, Birmingham University Unison)
Sharon Campion (Joint Branch Secretary, Sandwell Unison)
Pete Jackson (Vice Chair, Birmingham South PCS)
Paul Mackney (UNITE member, former General Secretary of UCU/Natfhe 1997-2007, President Birmingham TUC 1979-84)
Rick Evans (Unite WM)
Chris Spence (CWU and Unite Community)
Sharon McCourt (Unite Community)
Ruth Rosenau (Unite Community)
Sasha Simic (Shop Steward USDAW C133 branch)
Aaron Bennett (Unite)
Joe Cairns (UNITE COMMUNITY Stoke & North Staffs Branch)
Clare Thomas (Unite)
Jo McNeil (President Liverpool, NEC and GS candidate, UCU)
Michael Wongsam (Unite Communities)
Rita Wright (Equality regional officer, UCU West Midlands retired members)
Brett Davis (Unite Branch Secretary WM7212)
Nita Sanghera (West Midlands women’s officer, UCU)
Jean Evanson (Division secretary, Shropshire NUT)
Richard Milner (Unite chair, EM/NN14)
David Kersey (Communications Officer, Coventry UNISON)
Dave Wyatt (Wolverhampton UNISON retired member)
Pete Bicknell (Lewisham Southwark College UCU)
John Baxter (retired UCU member)
Sean Wallis (UCL UCU vice president; UCU NEC member)
Frances Patterson (Retired member of Unison)
Lesley Kane (Open University UCU branch secretary)
Carlo Morelli (UCU NEC)
Christopher Denson (Joint Secretary Coventry NUT)
Tony Barnsley (Joint Branch Secretary, Sandwell General UNISON Branch)
Laura Miles (UCU retired member)
Andy Higginbottom (Kingston University UCU Branch Chair)
Carlos Conde Solares (UCU)
Geoff Abbott (UCU)
Elaine White (UCU NEC Women members’ rep)
Bob Jeffery (Campus Convenor, UCU, President, Sheffield TUC)
Sean Vernell (UCU NEC, vice chair Further Education Committee)
Statement also endorsed by Red Labour
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