Fight the boss not your fellow workers, urges TSSA chief Manuel Cortes as he backs free movement campaign

8th August, 2017 9:37 am

Manuel Cortes, the union general secretary who is one of the early backers of a new campaign to lobby the Labour leadership on freedom of movement, has told international workers to resist efforts by the “boss class” to divide them.

Manuel Cortes, head of the Transport and Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), invoked the words of Karl Marx as well as the left’s long battle against workplace racism as he demanded workers stand together to fight the “perpetrators of exploitation”.

Cortes, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, used a LabourList article to set out why his union supports the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, which was set up last week with the backing of the Bakers’ Union and MPs Clive Lewis, David Lammy and Geraint Davies.

“We do so because we know that building bridges is always preferable to building walls,” Cortes wrote.

“Our task is to ensure the election of a Labour government with policies that will end the binge the richest one per cent are having at our expense. Nothing short of this will end the blight that many of our communities are enduring, or the fact that millions have been left behind.”

The intervention by the rail union leader is the latest in Labour’s internal debate over its future relationship with Europe. In recent weeks, senior shadow cabinet figures such as John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry have shifted the party’s position on the single market and said they will keep all options “on the table” — although EU leaders have said that membership of the bloc is tied to free movement.

Today Cortes criticised the “false perception” that the large-scale arrival of migrant workers had undermined the pay and conditions of people already in Britain.

“Sadly, this disingenuous narrative has taken root within our movement. It helped deliver the Brexit vote. But as we debate the Brexit we want, it’s high time we weeded out this fallacious and, frankly, xenophobic and at times bordering on racist, argument,” he wrote.

“Working people have more in common with each other, irrespective of their nationality, than they have with the boss class. To even insinuate otherwise betrays more than a century and a half of internationalism which has made our movement a beacon of hope for global change and justice in the interests of working people. As engraved on Marx’s tomb, ‘Workers of all lands unite!’.”

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