Community’s vice-president Jacquie Thomas addressed the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, talking about her local community and the need for good jobs.
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Conference, my name is Jacquie Thomas and I am Vice President of Community trade union.
Conference – I am a proud steelworker, a proud feminist, and a proud trade union rep.
I work at the Llanwern steelworks in South Wales and I come from Ebbw Vale.
Ebbw Vale has done great things – including giving us Nye Bevan, who gave us our NHS. Yet the many people of Ebbw Vale now live in great poverty. 14,500 people once worked at the Ebbw Vale steelworks. When it closed, some workers went to Llanwern and Port Talbot.
But many local firms who supplied the works closed too. And the result was a trickle down across the whole Blaenau Gwent economy. Leading to many out of work and wondering where the next meal might come from.
And now, 14 years later, Llanwern and Port Talbot face the same fate. If they close too, the deprivation that exists in Ebbw Vale and Blaenau Gwent will turn into destitution, right across South Wales.
62% of people living in Ebbw Vale voted Leave, despite receiving over £400 million pounds of EU investment. They voted that way because they wanted to take back control. They believed myths, yes.
But they were tired of the way the economy was working for them. The funding has been welcome, providing new apprenticeships and transport links. But there are few jobs. No local economy. No way for families to give good opportunities to their children
And now the rest of South Wales faces the same fate, my family and friends and so many more face the same hardship and heartache, if the government stands back and lets this industry fade away.
What jobs that do exist in Blaenau Gwent are too often poor quality, low paid, unsustainable, and on zero hours contract. These steel jobs, are good, secure, well paid jobs because they have had 100 years of trade union organisation.
That’s why Workplace 2020 is so important to areas like mine.
At work, I am proud to be a trade union rep for Community. I am proud to help people at work, standing up for health and safety and for my colleagues’ rights. Workplace 2020 seeks to strengthen the role of trade union reps and fight against the Tory attacks on employment rights.
But we can only win that fight, if we are an electable Labour Party, that reaches out across the country and beyond our base. My local community needs a Labour government, my work place needs a Labour government – conference, I need a Labour government.
I am proud that Workplace 2020 is setting the agenda for the Labour Party’s policy on work – I hope we go from here and fight every day to make sure we can set the agenda for the country.