Top union boss Len McCluskey slams austerity cuts during Belfast visit
TOP union boss Len McCluskey chose Belfast as a platform to deliver one of his most scathing recent attacks on Westminster and Stormont austerity cuts.
And the Unite general secretary called for "a Brexit on our terms” which protects jobs, working conditions, pay and workers' rights and ensures Northern Ireland's manufacturing firms retain tariff-free access to the European single market.
McCluskey, who is being challenged by Gerard Coyne for the top role in the trade union Unite, was in Belfast to meet education authority drivers about Unite's campaign against charges for school bus transport.
He also met Bombardier and Thales shop stewards and officials at at the Royal Victoria Hospital to discuss PFI payments at the car park and the pressures caused by under-staffing and lack of resources.
McCluskey said: “For too long now, public services in Northern Ireland have had to endure savage cuts both from Westminster and Stormont and it is low paid working people who always suffer most.
"Now, with this appalling imposition on families of a stealth tax for school transport, even the fundamental human right to a free education is effectively being taken away."
He added: “Brexit presents the industries and communities of Northern Ireland with profound challenges. Around 50,000 jobs are dependent on EU exports. We also have a situation where Unite members cross the border with the Republic every day, as do the goods and services they make.
"It's simply irresponsible for hard line Brexiteers to trumpet ‘taking back control' when this risks rolling back the peace process as well as damaging the economies on both sides of the border by impacting on free trade.
“The harsh reality of such an EU exit will be felt most by the people of Northern Ireland for whom supporters of a hard Brexit seem to have no care. The prime minister must work with trade unions in achieving a Brexit and manufacturing strategy that provides new money, real investment and guarantees that contracts and jobs remain in Northern Ireland."