Donald Trump will face huge-scale protests organised by the five-million-member TUC if he takes up Theresa May’s invite to visit the UK, union chief Frances O’Grady has told HuffPost.
O’Grady attacked the Prime Minister’s promise to “roll out the red carpet” for the US President while there is “real concern” about rising levels of misogyny and far-right violence in Britain.
The TUC general secretary also hit out at “heavy” lobbying and Tory backbenchers for forcing the Prime Minister to backtrack on her election pledge to put workers on company boards.
On Trump, she said: “I think Charlottesville has had a big impact on lots of people everywhere. It hit me during the one-minute silence for the anti-fascist protester, Heather Heyer.
“There is real concern about the rise of neo-fascism, white supremacists and - let’s be clear - women-haters.
“I think a lot of people were disturbed that the President seemed to draw some kind of moral equivalence between the neo-fascists and those who were protesting against them.
“As the TUC, it is absolutely core to our values: race equality; women’s equality.
“We don’t think the red carpet should be rolled out for President Trump and, if a visit does go ahead, then we would play our part in co-ordinating a peaceful, family-friendly protest, because that’s how we do things.”
O’Grady said allowing workers on boards - “a vote, not a veto, for the people who after all create the wealth,” she said - would bring the UK “into the 21st Century mainstream”.
She attributed May’s climbdown on the pledge, revealed before Parliament’s summer recess, to a combination of Tory backbenchers hostile to the idea and lobbying from large businesses.
She said: “Why is it that top bosses are so frightened of sitting in a room on a remuneration committee with a couple of people from the workforce and looking them in the eye and explaining the pay rise they are getting compared to the pay rise their workers are getting.
“It speaks volumes that there was a heavy lobby from business but also a total climbdown from the Prime Minister in respect of her own backbenchers doesn’t bode well.
“Politically, it’s not smart because if you start to break promises, people begin to wonder if they can trust you.”
O’Grady said the Brexit vote had shocked big firms, but, as a new poll revealed one in eight is skipping meals to get by, she was not convinced bosses realised how tough life was for workers.
She said: “You can feel the landscape changing; Labour being taken much more seriously as a government-in-waiting, much more focus on what feels like a systemic instability now in the government, and I’m not just talking about the deal with the DUP, I’m talking about ever-deeper divisions on Brexit.
“Workers are facing another financial cliff edge. People are going to pawn shops, skipping meals, they are worried about paying for their kids’ uniform, many are saying if the fridge broke down or their cooker packed up, they would really worry about that bill.
“So, do I think employers realise just how bad it has got for ordinary working people? I’m not so sure. Have they shown a willingness to make the changes that need to happen? Again, I think the jury is out.
“I hope they do get it but they need to get it fast.”
Ahead of the TUC conference in Brighton next week, O’Grady said what makes her angry in 2017 is the lack of respect shown to workers, who are “taken for granted, not listened to or patronised” by the Government.
She said: “If you take, for example, some of the commentary about workers on boards, it felt like old-fashioned snobbery, like we couldn’t cut it, like ‘we’d be out of our depth’.
“These are union representatives, pension trustees, they deal with serious numbers, they can string an argument together, they have an important role in public life.
“It seems to me there should be more respect shown to those who actually create the wealth.”
But the union chief added she drew hope from “the resilience of working people”, saying many union-supported measures in the Labour manifesto had polled as highly popular with Tory voters.
She said: “There is a sense of gritty determination. I think even, regardless of where people stood politically, everybody recognised that Labour’s manifesto was the real star of that election campaign.
“It set out practical, popular policies that most people agree with, including, when it comes to rail nationalisation and workers on boards, a majority of Conservative voters.
“There is now the possibility that a new consensus can be built that puts working people at the heart of it. This country isn’t a success if working people are not sharing in it.”