Unions react to surprise election announcement

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gambles on a July 4th general election

23 May 2024| News

Rishi Sunak stood in front of number 10 Downing Street on Wednesday and announced that a General Election would take place on the 4th July, triggering a general election campaign where workers’ rights is sure to be a central issue.

Trade union movement leaders reacted bullishly to the news, welcoming the chance for a democratic verdict on 14 years of Tory rule. Responding to the announcement, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“There is no doubt that this election will be a pivotal moment. Workers and communities are crying out for real change; Labour can be that change and will have the power to deliver what is needed in government. They can now show they are on the side of workers; they need to grasp this nettle. Promises made must be delivered.”

Fran Heathcote, PCS general secretary, said that:

“It’s about time we saw the back of a Conservative government that has, for 14 years, relentlessly attacked workers’ rights. We hope and expect a new government would treat our members with the respect they deserve, pay them a fair wage and invest in a civil service that meets the needs of the country.”

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis said:

“Usdaw welcomes that the general election has been called for Thursday 4 July. It finally gives our members the chance to vote for the change they so desperately need after 14 years of austerity, chaos and the Tories’ cost of living crisis. We are urging our members to vote Labour for a new deal for workers, action on retail crime and support for struggling high streets.

The past fourteen years have shown what a Tory Britain looks like: austerity that cruelly targets the most vulnerable people in our communities; relentless attacks on workers’ and trade union rights that creates more insecure work; chaotic economics that caused a deeply damaging cost of living crisis, and the effective decriminalisation of shoplifting that blights our struggling retail industry.

We’ve all had enough. That’s why Usdaw is campaigning for a Labour Government. A vote for the Conservatives is not a vote for working people, their families or their communities. It is only the Labour Party that will bring the changes that working people need.”

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary, said:

“Fourteen years of Tory rule have left working people poor, angry and desperate for change. We have suffered the worst drop in wages in 200 years. Public services, including the fire service, are in crisis.

It’s time to end the Thatcherite experiment that wrecked Britain. Decades of deregulation, privatisation and attacks on workers have delivered nothing but misery for communities up and down the country.

We need strong trade unions to turn things around. The next government under Keir Starmer must scrap the anti-union laws that stop workers standing up for themselves.

The Minimum Service Levels Act bans many public sector workers from striking even when they have voted democratically to do so.

Labour’s New Deal for Working People sets out a plan to scrap this authoritarian law, along with the 2016 Trade Union Act, as well as delivering a package of reforms to boost workers’ rights.

The FBU will fight to get rid of the Tories and to see this package delivered within 100 days of a Labour government.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea commented:

“Election day can’t come soon enough. Working people and their families are crying out for a new government in Westminster. One that values public services, can revitalise the economy and has a vision for the future.

Anyone who has struggled to make ends meet, tried to get an NHS appointment, seen council services savaged or wrangled with a social care sector that’s not fit for purpose will welcome this day. It’s been clear for months that this government is out of ideas, out of touch and should be out of office.”

“This election matters, not just for education in England, but across the UK because in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales high quality education is dependent on a fair funding settlement from Westminster,” said NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach.

He said the message from members was loud and clear:

“Teachers are angry, frustrated and believe the change we need can only come from a new government that is committed to delivering a New Deal for Teachers”

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National EducationnUnion (NEU), issued a statement saying:

“Our schools are chronically underfunded, primary class sizes are the highest in Europe, and secondary class sizes are the highest since records began more than 40 years ago. Teachers are underpaid and overworked, resulting in the worst recruitment and retention crisis in a generation. That will not be reversed unless there is significant change to pay and terms and conditions of the education workforce.

SEND provision and mental health support for our young people is practically non- existent. We have a curriculum and assessment system that does not engage many pupils or give each of them the chance to thrive.

Many of our school buildings are in a chronic state of disrepair, literally crumbling away with the ongoing effects of RAAC and asbestos. This is a grim picture for one of the richest countries in the world. It’s far from the ‘world class’ education system so regularly promised by our Government. And it just cannot go on.

The National Education Union will be using our voice to highlight what our 500,000 members want and parents and, most importantly, children and young people need. Our message is: we need a Government to invest in education and to invest in our young people. If you value education, vote for education. Let’s give our children the education they deserve.”