Len McCluskey defies Jeremy Corbyn to call for end to free movement of labour

Posted On: 
16th December 2016

Len McCluskey has called for an end to free movement of labour as he launched his bid to be re-elected general secretary of Unite.

Len McCluskey wants a third term as Unite general secretary.
PA Images

Mr McCluskey said "workers have always done best when the labour supply is controlled and communities are stable".

He also said Unite must "listen to the concerns of working people", many of whom want free movement to end once Britain leaves the EU.

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His comments put him at odds with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has always defended freedom of movement and rejected calls for immigration to be limited.

Veteran left-winger Mr McCluskey announced last week that he was resigning as Unite boss in order to trigger an early general secretary election.

Gerard Coyne, a regional secretary for the union in the West Midlands, announced on Monday that he was challenging for the top job.

Launching his campaign this morning, Mr McCluskey made free movement of labour one of the three main issues for his re-election campaign.

He said: "Unions understand that workers have always done best when the labour supply is controlled and communities are stable. 

"While we must reject any form of racism, and help refugees fleeing war, we must also listen to the concerns of working people.

"That’s why I have called for new safeguards to stop companies cutting costs by slashing workers’ wages and transforming a race-to-the-bottom culture into a rate-for-the-job society."


Mr McCluskey will also demand that trade unions get a major say on what the post-Brexit UK looks like, and pledge to crack down on the "blight" of casual labour and the watering down of workers' rights.

He said: "In all the talk of 'hard' and 'soft' [Brexit], of market access and so on, workers need to know that someone is looking out for them. 

"We are putting protecting jobs, as at Nissan, and workers’ rights at the top of the agenda – but that work is just starting. 

"We can’t let the City and the CBI settle our economic future without hearing from working people.

"Second, the emergence of the 'gig economy - the age-old problem of a casual labour market, now reaching epic proportions in Britain. That millions of workers have no security and few rights is a blight on British society."

"The trade union challenge is to offer these workers the same protections as we do to those in better-established industries.

"Unite will be in the forefront of legal and political campaigns to end the abuses of the “flexible” labour market."