UNION members received their warmest embrace from the Labour party in years as new leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to back striking workers.
During his first public speech following his landslide win on Saturday, Mr Corbyn said members should be able to express their political views as well as use union funds for future campaigning at the TUC Congress in Brighton,
His move to publicly support workers’ right to action and the rousing applause from the audience was in marked contrast to the lukewarm reception given to Ed Miliband from TUC Congress in the years he battled union voting reform and clarity over austerity.
Declaring union financial backing for parties as the “cleanest money in politics”, Mr Corbyn said: “There has been concern about the right of trade unions to be involved in political action in any way.
“Why shouldn’t workers express political views and why shouldn’t they use their funds if they wish for public campaigns?”
He went on to praise the walk-out of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCSU) workers at the National Gallery in London, some of whom where sat in the conference hall, “for what they are going through at this time”.
“Let’s recognise the skills of those people as being precious national assets.
“Well done on your campaign,” said the left-winger, who spent his 20 minute speech hurtling through wide-ranging points on his new Shadow Cabinet, welfare and strike laws.
He repeatedly attacked the Government’s Trade Union Bill which passed its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday night and also proposed welfare reforms, pledging to campaign against a benefits cap, if the party wins in 2020.
The Trade Union Bill proposes to impose a minimum 50 per cent turnout in strike ballots – with public sector strikes also requiring the backing of at least 40 per cent of those eligible to vote.
The Conservative Government also wants to end the so-called check-off system for collecting union subs direct from a salary, allow employers to use agency workers to replace striking staff and introduce fines on unions if pickets do not wear an official armband.
“We are going to oppose the Bill with every opportunity that we get.
“We are going to oppose it for what it is and we are join to replace it with something much better,” he said, referencing plans to repeal it if Labour win at the next General Election and establish a bill of workers’ rights instead.
“It’s a threat to the liberty of all of us. By calling into question the right to free association, it’s in contravention of article one of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“They are threatening the right to protest by looking to criminalise picketing and the right to free speech by limiting what union members can say. What kind of society are they trying to bring about?”
He mocked Government criticism aimed at him that he is a ‘deficit denier’ over his economics and hit back with comments that the Conservative Party are ‘poverty deniers’.
Welfare reforms have led to an increase in the use of foodbanks and reduced tax credits, argued Mr Corbyn – who reiterated again as he did during his election that ‘austerity is a political choice’.
The new Labour leader was given a standing ovation as he made his way to the stage to speak and said the trade union movement was ‘in his body’.
“The Labour leader should always be at the TUC to the keep that link,” he said.
The Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is heartening to hear that the new leader of the Labour party is 100 per cent behind repealing this appalling legislation. His comments about how this government champion deregulation in every area except the trade union movement will resonate with trade union members all over the country.”
Mr Corbyn said how he had appointed Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne, John Healey, as shadow Housing Minister to develop the pary’s response to the housing crisis and also emphasised the originality in creating a shadow Minister for mental health for the first time.
• THE VIEWS of a Yorkshre Conservative critic of the Government’s Trade Union Bill have been seized upon by Jeremy Corbyn as a sign of the proposed law’s unpopularity.
In an interview earlier this week David Davis, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden and former chairman of the Conservative Party, said that plans for picket lines resembled dictator General Franco’s Spain.
They were referenced by the new Labour leader in his TUC address.
Mr Corbyn said: “The burdens they are placing, as one Tory MP admitted, was the strategy used by General Franco in Spain.”