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Frances and Congress winners
Jess Hurd/

Another year, another Congress comes to a close.

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It’s been a rollercoaster ride this year, with events in parliament casting a shadow over our discussions about how best to keep winning for workers.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride this year, with events in parliament casting a shadow over our discussions about how best to keep winning for workers.

But we haven’t let the parliamentary shenanigans divert our attention from focusing from on the issues that people care about.

First of all, we called out Boris Johnson and his reckless attempt to drive the country off a no-deal cliff edge.

We know a no-deal Brexit will be ruinous for working people. It means higher food and fuel costs, medicine shortages for cancer patients, and will turn the UK into a global laughing stock.

We support any democratic means to stop no deal. And once we’ve done that, let’s have a general election and get rid of Johnson and his hard-right cronies once and for all.

We desperately need a government that will not only rebuild Britain but which trusts the people to have the final say on Brexit.

Let’s deliver that new deal for working people

Rebuilding Britain has been a key theme at this Congress. After almost a decade of painful austerity, working people desperately need a new deal.

But we can only do that if we unleash the talents of everyone in the country – not just the lucky few born into privilege and wealth.

It’s unbelievable that in 2019 we’re living in a country where a working-class kid with a university degree can’t get a better job than someone from an affluent background without one.

Where you come from, what accent you have, what school you went to and what your parent do for a living is still a more accurate predictor of how well you’ll do in life.

That’s simply not right, which is why we’re calling for a new law to stop employers discriminating against people on the basis of class .

This is one way we can start building a fairer Britain that draws on the talents of all our people and makes sure that everyone has a voice at work.

Women workers leading the way

Congress is also about celebrating the people who’ve gone above and beyond to give workers that voice.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to present five inspiring women with our annual Rep Awards.

From Usdaw’s Christina Distefano, who won the TUC Youth Award for bringing people together in her local community centre, to the NEU’s Jenny Cooper, whose passion for keeping her pupils and staff safe at her school helped secure her the TUC Safety Rep Award, it was wonderful to hear their stories.

Take UNISON’s Lyn Marie O’Hara, who won the Organising Award. Lyn Marie was involved in the biggest equal pay strike in Glasgow. Or Pat Heron, also of UNISON, who has helped bring women’s issues to the forefront at her workplace – an experience that won her the Women’s Gold Badge yesterday.

Last but not least was Unite’s Susan Mann, who won the Union Learning Rep Award for her efforts to help workers pass courses at a learning centre and get good qualifications.

These women are the best of our movement.

Without people them we are nothing, and I was especially pleased that this year’s awards all went to women for the first time.

Biggest boost to workers’ rights

Defending rights at work is what trade unions do, day in day out. But nine years of Tory rule haven’t made it easy.

The anti-democratic Trade Union Act has made it much harder for our members to speak up for themselves.

And an explosion in insecure work within the gig economy has made it more difficult for workers to organise and bargain collectively.

But we know that change is coming.

On Tuesday at Congress, Jeremy Corbyn promised Congress that a future Labour government would introduce the biggest extension of workers' rights ever seen in the UK .

We welcome Labour’s plans to appoint a secretary of state for employment rights and a workers' protection agency to enforce rights, standards and protections to ensure every job is a good job.

After the longest wage squeeze in two hundred years and the erosion of basic workplace rights in recent decades, this was music to the ears of many workers.

And it was also great to hear Jeremy promise a ban on zero-hours contracts, to put workers on company boards, to block Tory plans to force people to work till they’re 75 and to consign the Trade Union Act to the dustbin of history.

These promises are part of the new deal we’ve been campaigning for – and we’ll keep pushing for them to be put in place as soon as possible.

Together we can win

So as Congress closes for another year, I want to thank every delegate who attended. Your dedication to building a better movement for working people is an inspiration to us all.

I also want to thank all our keynote speakers, our outgoing president Mark Serwotka, Jeremy Corbyn, Laura Pidcock and Sir Keir Starmer.

Their inspirational words reminded us of what we need to do to keep winning for workers.

With a general election around the corner, I know you’ll join us on that journey in the weeks and months to come and help us deliver a government of the people, for the people.

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