The leadership blogs - Liz Kendall

The trade unions have always been an integral part of the movement and of the party I love. Our party owes its very existence to the trade union movement, and throughout the last century and more we have been at our best when the two great movements work together. One of the proudest moments of the last Labour Government - the historic introduction of the minimum wage – would never have been achieved without the trade unions. Right up to the vote, the Tories told us it could never work, but together we challenged the consensus and together we overturned it.

As a proud trade unionist I know that the need for a strong and healthy union movement in this country, looking out for workers, ensuring they have a voice in the workplace and protecting them from exploitation, remains as vital as ever, but under the Conservatives it is under existential threat.

The new anti-union laws introduced under the Trade Union Bill threaten the very foundation of the right to industrial action: by demanding a strike be voted for by a minimum of 40% of all eligible voters, the Government will effectively make the right to strike illegal. It’s the total hypocrisy of the move which rankles the most: as unions have pointed out, not only have the Conservatives been elected on a mandate of less than 40% of the vote, but only 56 of their 330 MPs achieved the 40% threshold. Half of the Cabinet would fail to meet the threshold if they had applied that rule, including, incredibly, Sajid Javid himself.

This isn’t about reforming unions – it’s an attack on the movement itself.

That’s why I’ve said from the outset - the Trade Union Bill is wrong, I’ve opposed it from the start, I’ll fight it tooth and nail in the Commons and as Prime Minister, I will repeal it.

The union movement has a proud record of organising and standing up for people all across the country. So as well as standing up to this Tory assault on workers rights, I want to go much further, giving people a stake and a say in the companies they work for and a place on the company board. And we can make it much easier for unions to represent their members, including the use of online balloting - increasing participation and the speed in which ballots operate, and helping keep unions relevant and responsive to their members.

Of course the union movement faces challenges. Only one in every seven private sector employees are unionised, and it’s those workers who are forced onto low-paid, part time, insecure contracts in the private sector that need union representation the most.

I’m proud of Labour’s deep bond with the trade union movement. The many challenges of the 21st century - low productivity, low wages and fierce international competition – can only be tackled with a strong and effective trade union movement.

It’s a link, and a movement, the Tories will never understand and will always try and break. 

We must stand together against their onslaught. 

And in this fight, I promise you I will always be an ally.

Liz Kendall is one of four candidates standing to be the next Labour leader which will be chosen by Labour Party members and affiliate supporters. If your trade union supports Labour you can sign-up to vote here for free http://www.unionstogether.org.uk/our_voice.

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