'Get a spine!' Keir Starmer faces backlash from trade unions following picket line ban

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The trade union Unite has criticised Keir Starmer as 1,900 of its members are striking at the Felixstowe docks in Suffolk over pay disputes. The eight-day strike is the first strike by dock workers for over 30 years.

The General Secretary of the Unite Union, Sharon Graham, slammed the Labour leader after he refused to let Shadow frontbenchers appear at strikes.

She said that Sir Keir needed to “get a spine” and “stick up for workers”.

Unite is the second largest trade union in Britain, with over 1.4 million members in different industries such as construction, transport, public services, food, finance, manufacturing, logistics and other sectors.

The union is threatening walkouts from workers in the public sector as workers have faced pay cuts due to the rise in inflation.

Ms Graham has said Labour will suffer in the next election if Mr Starmer did not support trade unions.

The union leader has called for a “strong message” of support from the Labour Party in an interview with BBC Radio 4.

She said: “I think that if they came out now strongly and said ‘hang on a second, these abhorrent profits that are going on and what’s happening with the cost of living, this is what we think should happen’ — then I think they would very much get elected,”

“From my point of view, I think we are doing Labour a favour actually by saying, ‘Look, get a spine, stick up for workers.’ I tell you right now, I think people want a strong message.”

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Last month, Mr Starmer fired Shadow Transport Minister Sam Tarry.

Mr Tarry attended a union strike at London Euston station and said he standing “in solidarity with striking workers”.

Labour said the MP was fired for an unauthorised media appearance and that they would “always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work”.

In a statement, Southside said: “This isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the front bench sign up to collective responsibility.

“That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.

“As a government in waiting, any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously and for these reasons, Sam Tarry has been removed from the front bench.”

At the time, Mrs Graham was critical of Labour and said the party was “becoming more and more irrelevant to ordinary working people”.

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Yesterday, Unite union put forward a motion at the next meeting of the Trade Union Congress to coordinate strike action.

The meeting will take place next month and the union will co-ordinate with Unison union, another one of the biggest unions in the UK.

Both unions have said they wish for their workers to have pay rises that match the current cost of living.

Tory leadership candidate Liz Truss has pledged to target trade unions by making it more difficult to strike.

Ms Graham said “the mood of the country” has changed and the union leader expected the Foreign Secretary to “temper” her plans if she becomes Prime Minister.

The General Secretary said: “Trade unions are emerging as the only people in the corner of workers.”

“I feel that Parliament has been captured by the business lobby.”



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