Brexit voters want to give the establishment 'a kicking', says Unite union boss Len McCluskey

 Mr McCluskey said a 'shadow' was hanging over workplaces following the EU vote

Alexandra Sims
Sunday 11 September 2016 22:35 BST
Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, says MI5 may have been discrediting Jeremy Corbyn
Len McCluskey, leader of Unite, says MI5 may have been discrediting Jeremy Corbyn (Getty)

Trade union members who voted Brexit wanted to give the establishment “a kicking”, the leader of Britain’s biggest union has said.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, blamed globalisation, "austerity and cuts in services" and "relentless downward pressure on wages" for leaving "communities derelict and generations without hope", which he claimed lead many industrial communities to vote Leave.

Speaking on the first day of the TUC conference in Brighton on Sunday, Mr McCluskey said a "shadow" was hanging over workplaces following the EU vote and warned firms not to use Brexit as an excuse to cut jobs and workers' rights.

He said productive factories such as Ford's engine plant in Bridgend, south Wales, have had their future thrown into doubt following the referendum result and called for an end to the "shameful racist backlash" on migrant workers.

"It is greedy bosses who are to blame for driving down wages, not migrant workers," he said, urging

unions to "pick up the pieces" following the referendum result to protect workers' rights.

"This Congress and most affiliates went into the European Union referendum campaign determined that remaining in the EU was the right choice for working people," said Mr McCluskey.

"We took that case up and down the country [...] But we did not prevail. And now this movement has to pick up the pieces.

"We also need to recognise why we lost – above all, why so many industrial communities, as this composite recognises, voted to Leave.

"It shouldn’t be a mystery. Far too much of Britain has been left behind by globalisation. Whole industries have disappeared, leaving communities derelict and generations without hope.

"Add to that austerity and cuts in services on top, with relentless downward pressure on wages; and an elite that has passed the burdens of the crisis onto the less fortunate – and it is not surprising that millions of people, including significant numbers of our members, voted to give the establishment a kicking."

Unite is the Labour party's biggest donor and Mr McCluskey is backing Jeremy Corbyn's campaign to defeat Owen Smith for the leadership, however he failed to mention the Labour leader who has faced backlash over his backseat role during the referendum.

Dave Prentis of major union Unison called for an "electable" Labour Party at the conference, adding that the party "must get back to the job of providing a proper opposition and showing it is an alternative government in waiting", Sky News reports.

Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union, however, said blaming Mr Corbyn for the Leave vote was "ridiculous".

Earlier on Sunday, John Whittingdale, who served as Culture Secretary until he was sacked by Theresa May in July, said the Prime Minister should begin the formal process of Brexit within a matter of weeks rather than waiting until next year to trigger Article 50.

Mr Whittingdale, was one of the most senior Tory politicians to break ranks with David Cameron and support Vote Leave, expressed worries that the longer it takes to leave the EU, the more it will encourage Remain campaigners suggesting Brexit need never happen at all.

“I don’t see what holds us back. We do need to get the formal process under way. I don’t say that it has to happen tomorrow but I would like it to happen pretty soon, and by that I mean weeks, not months," he told the Sunday Telegraph.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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