THE BLOG

Working People Need a Strong Voice in the Very Place that Excludes Them

15/07/2014 10:51 BST | Updated 14/09/2014 10:59 BST

It really is all too easy for us to despair as we see countless cases, not just in my constituency, but across the UK and in the media of people struggling to make ends meet as they fall victim to a cost of living crisis, cemented by Coalition Government policies. However, we must remember that there is hope. Trade unionists have a strong history of refusing to shy away from campaigning on the issues that make a difference to working people's lives, standing up for what matters and fighting social injustices.

When ONS figures earlier this year estimated that there were at least 1.4 million workers employed on zero hour contracts in Great Britain, without job security or the guarantee of a regular income, it was trade unionists who led the fightback. When the Coalition Government sold Royal Mail off on the cheap, privatising a national institution for a measly profit, it was trade unionists who exposed the truth and relentlessly continue to demand answers. When public sector workers were told that they would be subjected to yet another pay freeze, not being granted a decent wage for a decent day's work, it was trade unionists who said enough is enough and committed to stand together to bring about change.

For these reasons and so many more, I am a proud trade unionist and committed Labour MP and I am not alone.

Recent Parliamentary business has shown us just how critical it is that there is a defined trade union presence in Westminster. From Tory attacks on Facility Time (paid time for workers to carry out their trade union duties) in the last Cabinet Office Questions, to the need for NHS workers to lobby Parliament for a fair pay deal as, for the first time in history, a government is refusing to accept the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body, to Cameron's blatant refusal to rule out the privatisation of HMRC at Prime Minister's Questions, it is now more important than ever to ensure that there are representatives in Parliament who speak in the trade union interest. It is crucial that working people have a strong voice in the place that excludes, amongst others, that very group of people.

This is why the Trade Union Group of MPs re-launched. Although based in the heart of Westminster, we aim to push policies that reflect the wider concerns of working people across the UK, from all walks of life, onto the Parliamentary agenda. The group provides us with a vehicle to promote unity behind a common cause and I am honoured to be its Chair. With more MPs keen to sign up to the group, this week's website launch and a greater presence both inside Parliament and on social media, it is clear that there is the very real potential for the Trade Union Group of MPs to exert a progressive influence on Parliamentary politics. If my experience of being a trade unionist has taught me anything, it is that when people work together as a collective that is when we can achieve our greatest successes. This principle works no differently in Parliament.