Community at Labour Party Conference

Community Union members and delegates played an active role at a vibrant and hugely positive Labour Party Conference last week. Here’s a round-up of some of our work during a busy few days in Liverpool.

Saturday 7 October

The weekend kicked off with Labour Women’s Conference. On the conference floor, Community delegate Rachel Burgin spoke in favour of Community’s composite motion on women and the gender pensions gap. Rachel’s speech touched on some of the policies government could look at to reduce the gap, including reducing the earnings threshold for automatic enrolment in workplace pensions; improving provision of affordable, accessible childcare services to allow women to continue working after having a child; and introducing a family carer top-up to boost the pension wealth of those who take time away from work to care for children or relatives.

In the evening, Community members and guests gathered for our annual conference reception. Speakers at the reception included Labour leader Keir Starmer MP, Shadow Business and Trade Secretary Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Pat McFadden MP and PPC for Redcar, Anna Turley. You can watch Keir’s speech here.

Sunday 8 October 

On Sunday afternoon Community co-hosted a panel event with the Fabian Society, Prospect and BECTU to follow on from the recent joint launch of our manifesto for the self-employed. Our Head of Research, Policy & Politics Kate Dearden joined self-employed Community member Helen Stephens on the panel to promote the manifesto, which calls for more government support for Britain’s 5 million self-employed workers. It was good to have support for the manifesto from Imran Hussain MP, Shadow Minister for the Future of Work, who highlighted that Labour was the party for the self-employed.

Later in the day, Community co-hosted a fringe event on the future of manufacturing alongside SME4Labour. Speakers at the event included Stephen Kinnock MP, Kate Dearden and Community NEC member Alan Coombs. Alan, a union rep at Tata Steel Port Talbot, criticised Tata and the UK Government’s ‘smoke and mirrors’ deal on the future of the site, and highlighted how there is nothing green about closing down steelworks and giving jobs and order books to competitors overseas. In his remarks, Stephen Kinnock said that steel and manufacturing would be at the heart of the next Labour government’s drive for growth, good jobs and security; highlighting the party’s pledges on a Green Prosperity Plan and Steel Renewal Fund.

Community NEC member Jacqui Thomas made a powerful case for a Labour Government at the Labour Unions reception. Jacqui, a dedicated union representative at Llanwern Steelworks and hardworking local councillor in her home town of Tredegar, set out how working people need their voice heard in the corridors of power now more than ever.

Monday 9 October

Community General Secretary Roy Rickhuss attended SERA’s fringe on decarbonising our industrial future. In his remarks, Roy made it clear that steelworkers should not pay the price for making the industry greener. There was agreement in the room on the need for a just transition to green steel, rather than the misguided EAF only approach taken by Tata and the Government.

On the conference floor, Community NEC member and Port Talbot steelworker Alan Coombs introduced our motion on an industrial strategy to support the steel sector. In his speech to Conference, Alan highlighted how steel is a lifeline in so many communities, and spoke to how Labour’s commitments for steel will be transformative for the industry. We were delighted to see our motion pass – you can read it in full here.

At the New Statesman’s fringe event on energy security and Net Zero Community’s Kate Dearden spoke on the need for lower energy prices to support our steel industry. Kate also stressed that an EAF-only approach for our industry is wrong, and that all technological options need to be on the table.

Elsewhere in the conference hall, Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds was unequivocal that decarbonisation should never mean deindustrialisation, and had a clear message for steelworkers: “Labour will have your back every step of the way.”

Tuesday 10 October 

On Tuesday morning a Community delegation – including General Secretary Roy Rickhuss, our National Officer for Steel Alun Davies, and steel union reps from Port Talbot, Llanwern, Scunthorpe and Dalzell – met with Shadow Steel Minister Sarah Jones MP. Shadow Wales Minister and former Steel APPG chair Jessica Morden MP was also in attendance.

At the meeting, our steel reps highlighted their concerns about the recent UK Government-Tata deal, and heard from Sarah about the Labour Party’s plans to support the steel sector if it forms the next government – proposals our union is fully behind. You can read the Daily Mirror’s coverage of the meeting – including comments from Roy Rickhuss, Sarah Jones, and Community representatives Jacqui Thomas, Gary Keogh, Alan Coombs, and Reg Gutteridgehere.

In the afternoon all eyes turned to Keir Starmer’s leader’s address in the main conference hall. In a fantastic speech, Keir set out how a Labour government would turn the page on 13 years of Tory neglect and national decline. You can read Keir’s speech in full here.

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Community has an illustrious and rich history in supporting workers across the UK, dating back over a century. We represent members in a wide range of sectors from steel, logistics and the third sector to the self-employed, teachers and early years. We are a modern trade union, campaigning for a better working world, and we want you to join us.

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