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It's time to ‘fight back’ and ‘reclaim the Labour Party,’ sacked shadow minister says

Sam Tarry joins CWU picket line as 40,000 Openreach engineers and BT call centre workers strike for a new pay deal

A SACKED Labour shadow minister said it is “time to fight back” and “reclaim our party” today, as he joined the first national telecoms strike since 1987.

Sam Tarry said “people need to have a really hard think about what the Labour Party is for” if he was fired for remarks made on live TV in favour of pay rises in line with inflation.

The decision by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer to kick Mr Tarry out of his top team this week was met with fury by unions and the left wing of the party.

Mr Tarry joined a picket line at BT Tower in London to show support for striking members of the Communication Workers Union.

He told the picket that Labour needs to be clear it would defend workers’ rights to the hilt.

“Let’s be absolutely clear — it is not good enough, it is not good enough for the Labour Party to say that we probably won’t be able to give you a pay rise in line with inflation,” Mr Tarry said.

“Because that means the Labour Party is committed to cut people’s wages in real terms and that is totally unacceptable.

“If I’m sacked for having said that live on TV and not supposed to (have) been on that picket line then people need to have a really hard think about what the Labour Party is for.”

He added that “things were changing” and it was “time to fight back” and “reclaim our party.”

Sir Keir said he sacked Mr Tarry for booking himself onto media programmes without permission and making up policy “on the hoof.”

It is understood Mr Tarry offended the party leadership when he told Sky News every worker should get a pay rise in line with inflation.

But Labour MP Diane Abbott told the BBC on Thursday: “Everybody knows Sam Tarry wasn’t sacked for what he said in interviews, he was sacked because he went on a picket line.

“It is quite wrong. We are the Labour Party, the clue’s in the name.”

Writing in Labour List, Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary and chairman of Labour Unions, which represents all unions affiliated to the party, said: “The decision to sack Sam Tarry was not only wrong, it was stupid. Bad politics. And poor leadership.”

Mr Whelan added he thought it was a decision Sir Keir “will live to regret.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, now independent MP, and Labour’s former shadow chancellor John McDonnell were also on the CWU picket line.

Mr Corbyn said: “I think the duty of Labour MPs is to support its affiliates.

“And the CWU is an affiliated union, it’s asked for our help and support and I’m here today.”

Addressing the rally later, he added: “Our job is to unite everyone in this campaign for real social justice.

“It’s called socialism, where you don’t leave anyone behind.”

Mr McDonnell said: “If you’re a Labour MP, whether on the front-bench or the backbench, you should be on the picket lines.”

Commenting on the sacking of Mr Tarry, Communist Party general secretary Rob Griffiths said: “Labour was founded to serve the interests of workers — whether past, present or future — and their families.

“Starmer’s refusal to back striking workers and Labour’s conference policy of public ownership of oil, gas and electricity is leaving millions of people confused or disgusted.

“His gutless stance risks losing Labour the next general election.”

Around 40,000 Openreach engineers and BT call centre workers came out on strike today to demand a new pay deal.

The telecoms company decided to impose a £1,500 pay settlement on staff at BT, Openreach, Plusnet, and EE, after the offer had been rejected by the CWU.

The union had claimed a 10 per cent increase to reflect the 9.1 per cent inflation rate.

A CWU spokesperson said: “Today’s strike has been nothing short of rock solid.

“In every town and city, BT Group employees manned over 400 picket lines, showing their opposition to a management that doesn’t seem to care about them.

“Today’s strike should be a wake-up call to (CEO) Philip Jansen and BT Group that workers in this country will not sit idly by and watch their living standards crumble.

“The public is fed up at the level of corporate greed in this country today, and our members will be out again on Monday to tell BT Group that enough is enough.”

CWU general secretary Dave Ward, signalled from the picket line at BT Tower that he supported moves for more co-ordinated action by unions.

Mr Ward said he had spoken to the general secretaries of RMT, GMB and Unite and “we believe it is now time to consider calling for forms of collective action that every worker in the UK can participate in.”

Dave Bell, a telephone engineer on the Carlisle picket-line, said: “The company gave us a pay rise without consulting it with the union which was £1,500 across the board — well below the rate of inflation.

“We just hope we can get the company back to the table and find a compromise that’s suitable for both sides.”

There have been messages of solidarity for CWU members from across the labour movement.

Labour MP Richard Burgon said: “BT workers have been told to accept a pay cut — even though the company made £1.3 billion in profits and the chief executive got a 32 per cent pay rise.

“Solidarity with the CWU and the BT workers on strike today.”

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson said: “We should always support striking workers, it’s more important now than ever with the cost-of-living crisis and attack on workers’ rights.

“In Liverpool, branches of CWU, RMT and Unite are all fighting for workers. They have my upmost solidarity.”

CWU members will walk out again on Monday.

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