Earlier this week, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady joined me in Teesside to take part in trade union campaigning across Middlesbrough and Hartlepool.
We met local women from the Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign who have been badly hit by the change in state pension age from 60 to 65.
We talked to firefighters who have experienced dangerous funding cuts to their brigades.
And we spoke to volunteers at St Aiden’s Community Kitchen in Hartlepool who have been at the forefront of supporting people through austerity and in-work poverty.
We also spoke to Royal Mail workers who recently voted massively in favour of strike action in a dispute over job security and employment terms and conditions.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) backed action by 97% in a huge turnout of almost 76%, showing that they will not be beaten by the current government’s nasty, ideologically driven Trade Union Act. An act clearly designed to make it harder for workers to withdraw their labour should all negotiations fail.
The conversations we had supported what the TUC has been saying throughout this general election, that working people have had enough and that this election is the most important in a generation for working families.
The level of evidence supporting the argument that the economy is not working for the majority of families is striking, especially here in the North East.
The average worker in the region is £6,400 worse off today than they would be had wages kept pace with inflation since 2008.
Councils in the North East are spending £750m a year less on key services than in 2010, the biggest reduction of any UK region.
Within Hartlepool, 28% of workers are earning below the Living Wage foundation rates, this is above the regional average of 22%.
And 32% of children in Middlesbrough are living in poverty, rising to 39% after housing costs, placing it among the 20 worst local authorities for child poverty.
Political parties need to put working families first.
Whatever our background, we all deserve decent jobs and public services so we can take proper care of our families.
But the North East has borne the brunt of a decade of Conservative cuts.
Public services are crumbling. Wages have stood still, but the cost of living keeps going up. And too often the only jobs available are insecure and low paid.
We want better.
Our politicians must get wages rising faster for everyone, not just those in the boardroom. They must ban zero-hours contracts and guarantee everyone security at work. And they must rebuild our NHS and public services rather than dish out tax breaks for the rich.
Let’s use our votes to fix Britain and make politicians put working-class families first.
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