BFAWU Statement On Owen Smith MP’s Remarks Re: John McDonnell

The comments made by Owen Smith MP and claims he has made regarding a lack of campaigning on employment rights on the part of the Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, are as untrue as they are absurd. Mr McDonnell has been a champion of workers’ rights throughout his political career and his record is exemplary, especially when it comes to the workers that we represent in the food industry.

John has led the way; either by submitting Early Day Motions in Parliament, or by organising/co-ordinating meetings between MPs, workers and their Trade-Union representatives. In 2008, it was John who stood alongside those facing redundancy and uncertainty, as a result of the collapse of the Lyndale Food Group and fought their corner at Westminster. It was he, who demanded an inquiry into alleged prior collusion between the company and it’s appointed administrators, along with a demand for a change in the law relating to the conduct of company directors. This led to workers in the food industry being represented at Westminster via the creation of the BFAWU’s Parliamentary Group which again, John co-ordinated.

It was John, who assisted the BFAWU in terms of setting up our fast-food rights campaign, with it’s aim of ending inequality for young workers and to help bring about an end to the use of zero-hour contracts, in addition to demanding Trade Union recognition and a real living/minimum wage of £10 an hour. This campaign has resulted in many young workers in the UK fast-food industry being given a voice and a forum for the very first time.

John has also supported our campaigns in relation to heat in the workplace and the call for a temperature cap that would protect hundreds of thousands of people working in factories, bakeries, schools and numerous other sites all over the country. John also attends and addresses our Annual Conference most years, meets with delegates, listens to their concerns and identifies with their aspirations.

Since John became Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have seen him challenge the Conservatives, provide credible opposition and start to win the argument in terms of the government’s needless and damaging agenda of austerity for the poor and tax-breaks for the rich. All this, despite a pro-right wing mainstream media and unhelpful, uncomradely, rebellious, undemocratic and potentially destructive conduct from certain sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party including ironically, Owen Smith.

We completely refute the claims made by Mr Smith and ask him why it is, that he has never supported the campaign to end zero-hours contracts until his current Labour Party leadership campaign? We’d also like to ask him, seeing as he has now positioned himself as a ‘man of the people’ and ‘champion’ of the working classes, if he still believes that austerity is right? a claim that he made only a few weeks ago on the Andrew Marr show. Some might say that Mr Smith is making cynical attempts to wear Jeremy Corbyn’s clothes, in order to somehow win over sections of his support base. All we know here at the BFAWU, is that we have asked for, but never received so much as a scintilla of support from Mr Smith in relation to the hard-working and undervalued people that we represent. At the last general election, Smith (unlike Mr McDonnell) never campaigned for a minimum wage of £10 an hour and never campaigned (unlike Mr McDonnell) for the abolition of youth rates. He did however (unlike Mr McDonnell), abstain from the vote on the Conservatives’ vile welfare bill.

Although we welcome Mr Smith’s sudden embracing of worker-friendly policies and championing of their rights on an ‘anti-austerity’ platform; to publicly attack the architect is very poor form indeed.

Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)