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Over the last year I have stood on dozens of picket lines, with thousands of workers.

Decent people.

Hardworking people.

People like you, like me, like millions of other working people out there up and down the country.

Forced to take strike action to get a decent pay rise.

To pay the bills.

To make ends meet.

And I want to start this special Congress with a message to each and every one of those workers.

To the physios at St Thomas’s.

The paramedics in Liverpool, Newcastle and Lewisham.

The rail workers at Kings Cross, Lime Street and Piccadilly

The university lecturers

Civil servants


Today, this movement resolves:

We will fight to defend your right to strike.

Delegates, welcome to Congress House

The home of the trade union movement

A place where generations of trade unionists have gathered.

Not just to pass resolutions.

Or debate points of law.

But to set out, in concrete terms, what we can do to stand for working people.

And here we are, once again

Facing yet another set of laws

Designed to silence the voices of workers

The Strikes Act – could - put simply – take away the right to strike from five and a half million people.

1 in 5 British workers.

It’s Unfair.

It’s Undemocratic.

Congress, it’s unfit to be on the statute book.

The right to strike

To withdraw your labour

Is a cornerstone of our democracy,

of any democracy.

No-one wants to go on strike

It’s something you’re forced to do

When your boss threatens your job

Or your safety at work

Or won’t give you a decent pay rise.

Going on strike is a protection working people have relied on for generations.

But today, we have a Tory government that feels threatened by that basic protection.

Threatened by the organised working class.

Threatened by workers having the temerity to stand up.

And their response?

To reach for the old Thatcherite playbook

To slap more restrictions on unions

To bully working people into keeping quiet.

Congress, let us be clear:

We won’t be quiet

We won’t be bullied

And we won’t be intimidated by this government.

We are here today

Because successive Conservative governments

Made our public services pick up the bill for the bankers’ crash

We are here today

Because they promised to build back better after the pandemic

And then stood by while millions suffered through a cost of living crisis

And we are here today

Because just last year,

this Tory government crashed our economy

And then told us it was the fault of workers wanting a pay rise.


No more lies.

No more excuses.

No more scapegoats.

Time for the Prime Minister to take responsibility

Time for him to stand down

And time to call a general election.


In this movement

Everything we do is built on solidarity

Standing together is the only way we win

So let me be clear

I expect, you expect,

an incoming Labour government to repeal this spiteful legislation.

That is what the leader and the deputy leader have both said

In private – and in public

But we can’t just wait for an election.

We have to decide what we are doing

As a movement

Right now, to fight this legislation.

Now you wouldn’t expect me to talk tactics

Here, in public, where ministers and employers

(And their lawyers)

Can hear.

So I won’t.

But I will tell you this

If they come for one worker

If they come for one union

They will face us all.

Let me say this today.

As a young trade union activist, one of the first lessons I learnt

Was that you don’t cross a picket line

And no matter what laws they pass

Or how they threaten us

This movement is not in the business of telling any worker to cross a picket line.


As I said earlier.

This year I have had the privilege of standing alongside thousands of workers, all over the UK.

In fact, I even found myself standing on a picket line at my old secondary school

With my former history teacher, and proud NEU member, Mr McKibbin!

Not one of the workers

I talked to, was glib about taking strike action.

Not least the clinical support workers I met on the Wirral.

700 of them – mainly women

Clinical support workers

They take your blood

Monitor your heart rate

Test your urine

Crucial work

NHS band 3 work

But for years paid as band 2

They went on strike to end years of underpayment.

And they won

But something happened, one of those days on the picket line

Nearby, on the M53, there was a fatal coach crash

Two people tragically died

And as one, those clinical support workers decided to leave the picket line

Because they knew they might be needed.

Their first over-riding concern was keeping people safe.

None of those workers need a lesson in public safety from Conservative ministers.

Firefighters, ambulance crew, nurses, rail staff

Clinical support workers

On the Wirral – and all over the country

They’re the ones who know about public safety

They’re the ones who care about public safety

And they’re the ones who keep the public safe!

That’s their job.

Their vocation.

And when they are needed

It is trade union members, not ministers in Whitehall, who run to help.

So I say to this Tory government

If you don’t want strikes

You know what to do.

Pay us fairly.

Treat us fairly.

Invest in our public services.

Fix the mess you’ve created.

So Congress, here today, we resolve:

We will defy their ban on strikes

We will overturn this unjust law

And we will win for workers!

Solidarity Congress!

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