The Conservatives will be accused of having “broken Britain” in a keynote speech by the new leader of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) attacking the state of the economy and public services.
In his first speech as head of the union federation, Paul Nowak will highlight that “nothing works in this country anymore and no one in government cares”.
He will point to problems such as sewage in the rivers and the school concrete fiasco as proof that the country needs “urgent political change”.
Addressing union delegates in his home city of Liverpool, Mr Nowak will say on Monday: “Nothing works in this country anymore and no one in government cares. The Conservatives have broken Britain.
“They’ve had 13 years to sort out crumbling concrete in our schools. But five days before the new term they tell schools they can’t open.
“Because – and I quote the education secretary – everyone is ‘on their arses’.
“Could you think of a more perfect metaphor for this government? A crisis of their making, but someone else gets the blame.
“Yet, this government that can’t keep our rivers clean, or run trains on time, or run a functioning NHS can find time to attack the right to strike.”
Mr Nowak’s speech will come on the second day of the annual TUC conference which opened in Liverpool on Sunday.
The event kicked off with Mr Nowak announcing in a news conference that he is reporting the government to the UN’s workers’ rights watchdog over its controversial “anti-strikes” legislation.
Unions ‘will fight anti-strikes law on picket line’
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill seeks to ensure a legally mandated level of service across key sectors like the NHS during a strike, and will allow bosses to fire employees who ignore notices ordering them to work on strike day.
The government has said the purpose of the legislation is to protect lives and ensure people can continue to access vital public services during strikes.
But in his speech Mr Nowak will argue that rather than preserving services for the public, the new law is about “telling us to get back in our place and to not demand better”.
He will warn: “When the first worker is sacked for refusing to work on a strike day, we’ll fight it in workplaces and on the picket lines.
“Congress – this movement will fight it every single day until it is repealed.”
Debates about how to oppose the the legislation are expected to dominate the TUC conference, which will also hear from deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner.
Sir Keir Starmer will not address the conference but he will host a private dinner for members of the TUC general counsel on Monday.
Unions will also discuss issues like the cost of living crisis, workers’ rights and nationalising public services.
It comes after a bruising week for the Tories which saw the escape of a terror suspect turn into a political row about the state of the justice system and cuts to staffing and funding.
Meanwhile over 100 schools were forced to shut or partially shut because of collapse-prone concrete, with embattled Prime Minister Rishi Sunak facing accusations he refused to fully fund a programme of repairs while chancellor.
‘Years of austerity have left services reeling’
Unions used the two crises’ to argue the Conservative governments’ austerity agenda had left public services reeling as they opened four days of debate.
Listing problems in the public sector Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The longest NHS waiting lists in history, huge cuts to police forces and councils going bust. Care services are unable to deliver for patients, their families, or the workforce, but generate huge profits for offshore private equity trusts.
“Inmates are escaping overcrowded prisons and unsafe schools are crumbling, although you can bet Eton, Winchester and Harrow won’t be among them.
“Workers across all public services, and everyone who relies on them, can see austerity has fractured and smashed the economy.”
In a scathing attack on Westminster leaders she added: “This is the most venal, corrupt, inept government I can remember.”
Labour ‘must be more like Atlee in 1945’
The conference follows a year of unprecedented industrial action by hundreds of thousands of workers including nurses, teachers, civil servants and railway staff.
Unions are calling for change in the form of a Labour government.
In his speech, Mr Nowak will attack the current “cabinet of millionaires” and in a ringing endorsement of Sir Keir Starmer say: “When the time comes I will tell anyone who ask: vote for working people, vote for change, vote for the party we named for our movement. Vote Labour.”
But while Labour traditionally enjoys the support of trade unions, others had some choice words for the potential future incumbent of Downing Street.
Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union, called on Labour to commit to a radical programme of investment to tackle low pay, homelessness, under-staffing in prisons, library closures and “crumbling” school buildings.
Sharon Graham, leader of Labour’s biggest union donor Unite, accused the party of becoming a “1990s tribute act” – a reference to its last time in office under Tony Blair.
She said Sir Keir’s leadership needs to be more radical than then because there is less money in the public coffers to spend – and options such as wealth taxes and nationalising energy should be considered to raise capital.
In a reference to the post-war Labour government of Clement Attlee, which founded the NHS, she told Sky News: “Britain is in crisis. And what we need to do now is not to look back to 1997. What we need to do is be more like in 1945. The country needs a reboot and Labour needs to put policies forward that give it that reboot.”