Britain's Labour must reconnect with public – unions

BRIGHTON, United Kingdom – Britain's Trades Union Congress on Sunday, September 13, hailed the election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership, but warned that the main opposition party had to regain the trust of workers.

"Only the most hard-bitten cynic wouldn't have been impressed by the way that this campaign seems to have taken off and particularly the way young people have been excited about getting involved in politics," said TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady.

She was speaking as the TUC's annual conference got under way in Brighton on the southeast coast of England.

Several unions in the TUC are affiliated with the Labour Party, which was born out of the trade union movement.

But relations have often been strained between the confederation and Britain's main party on the left since it went on a modernizing, centrist trip under prime minister Tony Blair in the 1990s.

The two biggest unions, Unite (private sector) and Unison (public sector), both supported Corbyn in the Labour leadership race.

"Labour has to win back the trust of ordinary people," O'Grady told a press conference.

"Clearly we want to see somebody leading not only a party but leading the government that introduces policies that will make a real difference to working people's lives.

"Whether that's building council affordable homes, whether it's ensuring people get a fair pay, whether it's tackling that scandal of zero-hours contracts that so many young people in particular are stuck with."

Some 750,000 people in Britain work on a so-called "zero-hours" basis, where pay depends on the number of hours worked, but there are no guaranteed minimum hours.

O'Grady said she hoped Corbyn would throw his full weight behind opposing government plans to tighten the rules on strike ballots, which will be re-examined in parliament this week.

Currently, a simple majority of those who vote is required to call a strike.

The Trade Union Bill would impose a minimum 50% turnout threshold, while public sector strikes would require the backing of at least 40% of eligible voters. –