Grahame Smith, STUC General Secretary, addressed Women’s Conference and committed that the STUC would continue to mainstream women’s issues. He thanked the women’s committee and the staff who support them for taking a lead.
He highlighted the challenges facing us, not least that 29% of children will live in poverty in Scotland and 37% in UK by 2023. All the while the incomes of the top 10% are rising faster than any others, leading to a massive growth in inequality.
He slammed the rise of the far right as a result of growing neoliberalism, pointing out that they have taken over the Tory Party and are looking to take over the government of our country.
This has led to a Johnson Brexit deal which is far worse than May’s for workers’ rights and public services. Whilst Boris says that he supports workers’ rights, Home Secretary Priti Patel has made it clear that she is looking to cut the rights provided by EU membership by half.
“What is very worrying is that lying, cheating, law breaking and back-stabbing seems to have no political consequences for Johnson and his colleagues,” said Grahame.
He condemned a no deal Brexit which would “be a disaster for this country. “It might suit wealthy financiers and well-heeled Tories,” warned Grahame but not the rest of us.
Whilst he understood Labour’s concerns about an early election, he backed it to get rid of this Tory government once and for all, but called for this to be on more than just Brexit. He highlighted the important role of the unions and called on them to encourage their members to look more widely at all the issues that affect them and their families, and to present a positive vision for the society we want to live in.
On climate change he paid tribute to Greta Thunberg, and warned that this is a class issue. It’s about those who own the companies that benefit from carbon fuels many of whom are also climate deniers. It’s also a gender issue and a wider equalities issue, said Grahame.
He ended with a warning that union membership is aging and is mainly from professional or semi-professional working roles.
“Unions must be relevant to members to increase membership and collective bargaining coverage.
“We need a new vision to address these challenges and women must be to the fore in this process,” said Grahame, thanking all those women who play such important roles in the STUC.
Reports by UNISON Scotland Communications and Campaigns Committee from Kate Ramsden in Perth.