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Tom Watson makes the case for a Labour general election victory at Usdaw’s annual conference

Date: 02 May 2017 Tom Watson, Labour’s Deputy Leader, today addressed the Annual Delegate Meeting of the shopworkers’ trade union Usdaw at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. In a wide-ranging address he set out Labour’s record of delivery, Conservative attacks on working people and Labour’s promise to voters.
Tom Watson asked delegates to judge any party by what it does and set out what successive Labour governments have delivered for Usdaw members and their families:
  • The National Minimum Wage
  • Tax credits to support working families on lower incomes
  • The right to 28 days paid holiday
  • The right not to work excessive hours
  • The right to actually take a break in the working day
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Rights for carers
  • Rights for agency workers
  • The legal right to union representation
  • Schemes to tackle workplace bullying
  • Increased protection for whistle blowers
  • Further protection against discrimination
  • Increased compensation for unfair dismissal
Tom Watson said: “Labour has consistently fought for safer conditions, higher wages and protections for workers. That’s Labour’s brand. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. Whoever the leader is, whoever its MPs are, you know they will be working to improve the situation of low paid working people.

“The Tories opposed nearly every one of those advances. They voted against them, they campaigned against them and in government they’ve tried to reverse some of them. The Tories astonish me sometimes. They’re like dropped toast - they always come down on the wrong side.

“They’re plunging low paid families into poverty by slashing the tax credits that make up for stagnating wages. Workers are already working longer for less. Yet the Tories tried to deregulate Sunday trading, eating into the last bit of protected time some workers have with their families.

“They’ve undermined the ability of trade unions to support their members and attacked the right to strike; they’ve cut the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme, reducing the money awarded to workers attacked in the workplace, and their introduction of employment tribunal fees has seen cases fall by 80 percent. That isn’t because the workplace just magically got fairer. Workers are being denied access to justice.

“Just last week, figures from the IFS revealed the damage that will be done to working people’s living standards under proposed Tory changes, how cuts to in-work support will leave families with children an average of £2,500 pounds a year worse off. Yet Theresa May felt able to stand on the steps of Downing Street and claim to be driven by the interests of the those working around the clock, those with no job security, those who are “Just About Managing” – the so-called JAMs.

“We’ve had seven years of the Tories in charge. It’s been frustrating, it’s been heart breaking. Opposition is a cold place, you don’t set the agenda, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stood by and done nothing. Labour has forced the government to retreat on some of its most ruthless, most regressive policies.

“A Labour government wouldn’t just protect the rights workers already have, it will give them new ones. Working people need a Labour government that will raise the minimum wage to £10, ban exploitative zero hours contracts, repeal the Tories’ Trade Union Act, and guarantee the right of trade unions like Usdaw to access workplaces and speak to members and potential members.

“They need a Labour government that will strengthen protections for women against unfair redundancy during pregnancy and maternity leave, and double paid paternity leave. Four new bank holidays would be good news for workers too.

“A vote for Labour isn’t just a vote for a properly funded NHS, a £10 minimum wage, more affordable housing, 10,000 more police officers. It’s a vote against the Conservative Party having a blank cheque to do whatever they like.”

Speaking after Tom Watson’s address to conference, John Hannett - Usdaw General Secretary says: “Politics affects every aspect of our lives and this election is crucial for our members and all workers. Tom is right that we must not give the Tories a blank cheque to water down important rights from Europe.

“Almost everything we do is political, that is why this election is so important. It is about the things our members care about and the issues that Usdaw campaigns on: Employment rights, health and safety, pay and hours of work, pensions, lifelong learning, tax credits, Sunday trading. Labour's vision for a fairer, more prosperous country is one that will deliver for Usdaw members on these and many other issues, so I urge them to vote Labour on 8 June.”

Notes for editors:

Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fourth biggest trade union with nearly 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 17% in the last five years and by nearly a third in the last decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the Union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.

For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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