Unison tells North East members Labour leader wouldn't recognise a trade union

Unison chief Dave Prentis told members gathered in Newcastle that the party "has to make sure Labour is on our side"

Unison chief Dave Prentis
Unison chief Dave Prentis

Members of one of the North East’s biggest unions have been told to demand more from Labour.

Unison chief Dave Prentis told members gathered in Newcastle that the party “has to make sure Labour is on our side.”

In an apparent attack on party leader Ed Miliband, Mr Prentis told union representatives gathered in the city’s Vermont Hotel that “You can't get Ed to say he likes trade union leaders.”

He added: “He says he likes trade unions, I’m not sure he even knows what one is.”

Speaking to The Journal, Mr Prentis said the Labour party had “wasted time” on the party leader’s reforms to Labour’s trade union links.

“The outcome of all that was six months of time wasting that no one else cared about, that did nothing for the people they are supposed to represent.”

Asked if he agreed with one delegate who said Labour had slept through the last four years, Mr Prentis said: “I share the sentiment that it has take some time for some Labour officials in London to realise that they are no longer in Government.

“I share the sentiment that Labour does not even have the pledge card that was there in 1997 so people can say on the doorstep, ‘this is what we will do for you.’”

Mr Prentis said Unison wanted to see “clear policies from Labour” that the union could support in the run up to the General Election, telling members that he would be seeking to put pressure on the party to come up with manifesto commitments that would “make a clear difference.”

He said: “We need clear, strong policies from Labour if we are going to get a Labour victory. We want the party to set out how it will rebuild the NHS to make it a real national health service, for example.”

During the meeting with delegates, Mr Prentis backed those who said it was wrong that major employer in Labour’s North East heartland had a Living wage, despite the party having it as a target wage for all in the last manifesto.

Clare Williams, Unison’s regional convenor, said, “Across all our members in whichever service they work, the key issue is pay. Friday’s event with Dave Prentis was an opportunity for members in the region to have an open discussion with our General Secretary to plan a strategy to tackle poverty pay in the public sector.”

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