TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes joined Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary and a host of expert speakers in Monday's policy discussion at Labour Connected, under the heading: Rebuilding our Communities after Austerity and Coronavirus.
In a wide-ranging session which covered grave concern about eviction risks, poor quality housing health impacts, underfunding of local government and the effect of covid on the High Street, TSSA highlighted government incompetence and the need for a Green New Deal.
“Removing the job retention scheme in the middle of a health emergency which we’ve just heard from the experts is going to last a further six months shows the Tories are incompetent at dealing with this” said Manuel Cortes in his opening remarks. The session started just minutes after top government advisors Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance warned of cases spiralling and the need to take action to curb the spread of the virus.
“We need to marry our economic crisis with our environmental crisis” said Manuel, praising the Labour Party for getting this “absolutely right”. “We can’t have economic justice without climate justice” he continued. “The Green New Deal is right. The jobs of the future have to be developed as part of a green economy. Only Labour has got the answers to those questions.”
Manuel was scathing about the “devastating effects” that ten years of austerity has caused. “There can be no going back to business as usual” he said. “We need a new economic settlement. My union is very proud that Gordon Brown has stepped forward for an alliance for full employment.”
On what comes next, the transport union leader was clear: “We need to look away from 40 years of neoliberalism. Today, the Tories have recognised that decades of franchising doesn’t work, but despite this they are still keeping privateers in the railway, receiving a 1.5% fee based on what takings were back in February of this year.”
Manuel praised Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon for highlighting last week that £100 million has gone into private rail shareholder pockets under Emergency Measures Agreements on the railways. “It’s nothing short of a scandal” said Manuel.
Picking up the theme of ghost town centres which Usdaw speaker Tony Dale had warned about, Manuel spoke out about the threats facing the travel trade. “We are on the verge of seeing the end of the travel shop” he warned, flagging the recent collapse of Thomas Cook and widespread job losses in the sector. “When we get over this virus, we will need a very well-deserved holiday and I tell you, there won’t be any travel shops left. Action is needed.”