Unite union boss plans to miss Labour conference again

Sharon Graham, the boss of Unite, is planning to skip Labour’s conference for a second year in a row to prioritise current industrial disputes, and said the party should correct the impression that it’s “wrong” to be on the picket line.

Graham, the general secretary for just over a year, has presided over 450 disputes over the last 12 months and counted the outcome on pay as a win in 80% of cases. She said strikes are “coming to a crescendo at the moment” because of the cost of living crisis, when every penny in people’s pay packets counts.

Graham warned it was a “miscalculation by anybody, whether it’s Keir Starmer or Liz Truss, quite frankly, in assuming that unions are a hated beast” as workers are voting in increasingly large numbers for strike action.

With ongoing strikes at Liverpool docks and elsewhere, Graham said she was needed in negotiations and in support of striking workers and so it was “very unlikely” she will be at Labour conference.

Graham, who met Starmer for “detailed discussions” last week, also called on Labour to be more “robust” in defence of workers in disputes for higher pay in Felixstowe, Liverpool and elsewhere.

Labour will come under pressure to support inflation-matching pay increases, joining picket lines, and renationalisation in a crucial annual conference for Keir Starmer.

On the issue of supporting striking workers, the Labour leadership initially banned frontbenchers from picket lines earlier this summer but this appears to have been l