Last year people took a risk and voted for change – in 2017 employers and politicians must hold their heads up and start to listen

1st January, 2017 6:00 pm

Tim Roache

This is the New Year message issued today by GMB general secretary Tim Roache.

In generations to come, 2016 may well be looked back on as a turning point in modern history.

In the past year, the decades of frustration felt by working people and working class communities has seen a seismic shock to the established political and economic order.

This time last year, very few people would have predicted Brexit or a Trump presidency.

For those who still scratch their heads about why we’re leaving the EU, as we head into the New Year, I ask you to think what life would be like if you didn’t know what hours you’d get next week, if you knew what your bills would be but not your wage, if you not only had to look after your kids but your ailing parents too because the care system and NHS were stretched to breaking point, if you looked around and wondered how your kids would get a good job or a home of their own.

Think what life would be like if you saw no prospect of that changing, if you expected things to get worse not better, to always have to struggle.

In 2016, like decades before, employers worked every loophole they could find to make a few more pence on the bottom line, while hundreds of thousands of people muddled along in permanent insecurity on agency contracts, with no rights as bogus self-employed workers or as a paid up member of zero hours Britain.

The gig economy – as GMB’s historic victory against Uber this year showed – has become a byword for centuries old, exploitative working practices lurking inside the most modern of enterprises.

Local government, the care system and our NHS are on their knees. I cannot be clearer, they are in crisis.

And these are services that each and every one of us who has to work for a living relies on in our daily lives.

2016 was the year when so many people chose to take a risk and vote for change because – however great that risk – the prospect of business as usual was out of the question.

2017 must be the year where employers and politicians alike hold their heads up, finally “get it” and listen.

This last year, people couldn’t have shouted much louder.

In the coming year, I will lead GMB as we stand shoulder to shoulder with our members and those who need us most.

Fighting for better, fighting for hope, fighting for a 2017 for the many, not the few.

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