Yvette Cooper grilled on Labour's support for unions by Rinder
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The Labour MP was grilled over her party’s view on worker strikes amid an ongoing dispute over pay and working conditions across several leading unions. Yvette Cooper affirmed that the Labour party does support the right to strike, despite leading party figures being discouraged from attending picket lines and a lack of clear statements of support from politicians. As a consequence of Labour’s cautious approach to backing striking workers, unions that make huge donations to the party are threatening to significantly cut or even completely withdraw their funding. The threat of a huge financial strike has put Labour in a perilous position as the party must convince trade unionists they are committed to securing better conditions for thousands of workers.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, host Robert Rinder said: “This is the union that built the Labour party that’s saying you’re not standing shoulder to shoulder with them anymore.
“They’re striking, they’re ordinary people whose real wages are going down.
“Do you support strikes, yes or no? You can’t be that worried about your job.”
Ms Cooper replied: “We support people’s right to strike, of course.”
The Shadow Home Secretary continued: “It’s really important. It’s how working people over very many decades have been able to try and argue for better pay and better conditions.
“People have the right to withdraw their labour.
“We also want to see a proper government plan – we’re trying to be the next Labour government, that’s the point that Keir Starmer has made.
“That means we have to set out a plan to get lower inflation, to get stronger growth and to get these fair pay agreements in place – which is the way the government can support better pay and conditions for working people.”
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For months, the UK transport network has been in the grips of a feverish dispute between workers and rail giants over pay and working conditions.
Rail services have been left paralysed by mass worker walkouts and picket lines were established by striking union members in cities across the country.
Despite Ms Cooper’s apparent support for the union strikes, Labour’s frontbench have been warned against publicly joining picket lines by party leader Sir Keir Starmer.
A memo from Sir Keir’s office that was distributed among party members read: “We also must show leadership and, to that end, please be reminded that frontbenchers, including [parliamentary private secretaries] should not be on picket lines.”
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Sam Tarry, a Labour MP and former Shadow Minister for Transport, was fired from his Shadow Cabinet position after appearing on a strike picket line alongside rail workers.
The Labour party reported that Mr Tarry had been dismissed for giving a series of unauthorised interviews to reporters who were covering the strikes.
Head of Unite, the largest trade union donor to Labour, has criticised the party for failing to represent the workers, branding the party “irrelevant.”
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “What’s required right now is for the party that is there for workers stands up and to stop being embarrassed to be the party for workers.”
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