Frances O’Grady – 2012 Speech to TUC Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Frances O’Grady to the TUC Conference in Brighton on 11th September 2012.

Well Brothers. You’ve been thinking about this for 144 years. Now….I don’t want to rush you but… Are you really sure?

And, sisters, will you join me in giving notice to anyone who still thinks that women are the weaker sex – you better think again.

I want to thank you and your unions for nominating me to become General Secretary of the TUC. There is no greater honour.

And I also want to give my personal thanks to Brendan. Brendan has always shown me respect. He has always consulted me and encouraged me. And, when times were tough, he has always backed me.

He has taught me that we work best when we work as a team. And for that I also want to thank our TUC staff, whose talent and commitment is second to none. Brendan – I couldn’t have wished for a better boss or a better friend. Thank you.

Delegates, we are the voice of millions of working people, men and women, black and white, migrant worker or British-born, including many who are not yet our members. Millions of ordinary families who are under unprecedented pressure but who want hope for the future.

I will make sure that our voice is heard day in day out. That our concerns can’t be ignored, dismissed or marginalised. I will not let any government, or any party, take us for granted.

Of course our movement must be open to change. And change we will in the months and years ahead.

Not just talking to ourselves, about ourselves. But reaching out more. Campaigning more. And, if needs be, fighting back more.

I will put the TUC, Congress House and our regions at the heart of the values, hopes and campaigns that you – our affiliated unions – all share.

Change must mean a banking system that serves the real economy, not just itself. Change must mean a green industrial strategy that puts Britain back to work. Change must mean public services, publicly owned – not just our precious NHS but child care, elder care. And our railways too. And change must mean not just a minimum wage, not just a living wage, but a fair wage for the people of this country.

That means finding new ways to rebuild the scope and coverage of collective bargaining, our bread and butter work. New ways to humanise work, recognising we all have a right to family life. And it means new ways to win more democracy for ordinary people at work.

Because no one has a greater interest in the future success of the workplace than those whose livelihoods depend on it.

That collective strength has never been more needed in Britain today. It is our only protection against greed, injustice and the abuse of power.

There are many ways to tackle the obscenity of inequality. But there is none more effective than strong trade unions.

Weak unions mean wider inequality. Strong unions are the surest measure of a fairer society.

On October 20th I will be proud to stand at the head of what must be a truly mass demonstration – the TUC giving expression to the fears and hopes of the British people in a way that no other organisation, no other movement could do.

We are still the biggest organisation in civil society, our tens of thousands of elected representatives – people like you – are the Big Society.

Our values represent everything that is best in our society. Decency. Democracy. Fairness. These are my values – our values, trade union values. Together we can win, we will build for a future that works.