LABOUR MPs must be prepared to defend workers both in Parliament and on the picket line, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said yesterday.
Speaking at a National Shop Stewards Network meeting before the opening of the TUC Congress in Brighton, he laid into the “brutality of Tory austerity,” which has seen strikes by low-paid workers at McDonald’s, Serco and the Bank of England.
Mr McDonnell pledged Labour’s support for all those workers who ballot for lawful industrial action.
“We will be in parliament supporting you and we will be supporting you on the picket lines,” he told the gathering.
He slammed an out-of-touch Tory government of “multimillionaires” for the “grotesque inequality” in Britain, where many workers have to choose between “heating or eating” and where poverty pay is forcing nurses to use foodbanks.
Mr McDonnell pledged that Labour would scrap the 1 per cent public-sector pay cap, with the cost of its abolition being paid for by a increase in taxes so that “the corporations and the rich pay their way.”
But he urged caution over rumours that Chancellor Philip Hammond may plan to end the cap for some of the lowest-paid workers while retaining for others.
“We want the pay cap scrapped for all,” he said, warning: “We will not be divided and ruled over.”
The shadow chancellor argued: “The only way high standards will be protected is if we have trade union rights,” going on to pledge that a Labour government would scrap the Tories’ anti-Trade Union Act within 100 days of taking office.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said his union was balloting members for industrial action over wages across the public sector.
“If we break the pay cap, we can break this government,” he said.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the union had built up a “massive strike fund” of £36 million to take on the Tories and warned: “If bosses think they are going to starve people back to work, then they best think again.”
He also warned of “traitors in our midst” who had plotted against the Labour leadership, but insisted: “A better world is possible.”
Striking Birmingham bin workers received a standing ovation near the close of the rally.
They said they had been treated with “utter contempt” by the city’s Labour council, which has reneged on a deal struck at conciliation service Acas, leaving them with “no choice but to fight.”
The workers urged supporters to join them at a demonstration outside the Birmingham City Council headquarters today.