My motivation for everyone having the right to a properly paid job and protection as a trade union member was born out of the personal experience of witnessing mass compulsory redundancies during the closure of car factories and the devastation of the automotive industry when I was in my mid-teens. My father, a machinist, at British Leyland was made redundant and I witnessed him leave his factory gates for the last time, with thousands of other workers as the claxon sounded the closure of the plant. It then took many of those workers many years to find employment and some never again had the right to secure employment.
My father, an Irish immigrant, had been recruited to join the Transport and General Workers’ Union by none other than Jack Jones. It was the support and solidarity from the Union that day at the gates and for the next three years as he tried to find work which cemented my commitment to the Trade Union movement.
When I was a student I worked as a postie. It was the Union and the powers of collective bargaining that made sure we were safe, paid and they kept the canteen open in the depot making sure that we were fed and watered when we were facing ice cold weather delivering on winter mornings.
As a Councillor in Liverpool in the mid-nineties I was a member of Liverpool City Council’s European Objective-One Monitoring Committee and Deputy Chair of Liverpool City Council’s Equal Opportunities Committee. I worked with my friends in the Trade Union movement to make sure that the European funding, which saved Liverpool from the decay of the Thatcher years, was used in the best way possible to create jobs and best support local people in the city in the short and long term.
From 2009 till I was elected to the European Parliament I worked as a regional organiser for UNISON. I led on higher education and further education, the North West Ambulance Service and the Greater Manchester Police. It was the campaign that UNISON members and I worked on together (as well as more than 600 complaints from patients about the service in 2014 alone!) after the Ambulance service in Greater Manchester had been flogged off by the Tories to bus company Arriva, that has led to this service being brought back into public hands in December last year.
Today I am proud to be a member of the Trade Union Intergroup in the European Parliament and have made the commitment to meet with Union members in every workplace I visit.
I ‘heart’ Unions. I am so pleased to have watched the TUC campaign over the last week and hear about the experiences of other people in the Labour Movement with Unions and the good they contribute to our lives. The Tories’ insidious Trade Union Bill is an affront to our democracy and an attack on the human rights of every person in the UK. We must continue to fight to save our Unions, to put forward the positive and progressive case for Unions and expose the Tories for their shameful self-interested attempt to take away what has been a lifeline to my family and so many others across the UK.