New TUC leader in 'grand alliance' call


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The Independent Online

The new head of the TUC is calling for a “grand alliance” between employers and unions to help reverse falling living standards and tackle the country's jobs crisis.

Frances O'Grady, the first woman to be appointed to the post, said she will work to persuade the Government to change course away from its austerity programme of cuts, in favour of boosting jobs and growth.

The 52-year-old said she was under no illusions about the task, but believed the public was now realising the coalition's policies were wrong.

"There is a growing consensus that the Government needs to change course," she said in an interview with the Press Association.

"We need a new grand alliance between unions and decent businesses, because people are working harder for a worse share of rewards."

Ms O'Grady will help to organise a big anti-austerity demonstration the TUC is organising in October, which some union leaders have predicted will be the biggest protest ever seen on the streets of this country.

"It will be an opportunity to to demonstrate the strength of feeling in the country among unions as well as others such as faith and community groups.

"We have had the biggest squeeze in living standards since the 1920s and workers have been hit by years of pay cuts, while prices are rising.

"Families are under huge pressure, and MPs should realise they will pay a heavy political price at the next election if things continue."

The mother-of-two said another of her priorities will be to help unions recruit new members, using modern methods and making it easier for workers to join, even if they were in part-time jobs.

She doesn't believe unions have an image problem, saying that old, unfair stereotypes were often peddled, even though the movement was diverse, with equal membership between men and women and almost a third of general secretaries being female - a record companies and politics should follow.

Ms O'Grady worked while bringing up her children, and said she understood the need for decent childcare to help women juggle work and home lives.

She has met several Government ministers since the last election, and received a message of congratulations on her appointment from Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

The new TUC leader said she believed she would be just as "tough" as her male predecessors, although with a different style.

"I want a constructive relationship with the Government - but I don't just want access, I want influence."