Ed Miliband has demanded fair wages for care workers in his inaugural speech as Labour Party leader.
In a wide-ranging conference address, Miliband also said he would not oppose every cut brought in by the government and called on unions to show responsibility by avoiding unpopular strikes.
Recalling an adult care worker he met in Durham during the Labour leadership campaign, Miliband, praised the woman’s hard work and dedication.
“She is doing one of the most important jobs in our society, and if it was my mum and dad [she was looking after], I would want anyone who cared for them to be paid a decent wage,” Miliband said.
“But she was barely paid the minimum wage – and barely a few pence extra for higher skills.
“What does it say about the values of our society, what have we become, that a banker can earn in a day what the care worker can earn in a year?”
Miliband, whose wafer-thin victory in the Labour leadership contest was announced on Saturday, called for a generational change in the country, with the values of community and family more widely recognised.
“This generation wants to change the way government works because it understands the power of the state to change lives but also how frustrating it can be if not reformed.”
He also spoke at length on public spending, calling on the government to avoid a deficit reduction that “endangers our recovery”.
“I believe strongly that we need to reduce the deficit. There will be cuts and there would have been if we had been in government,” he said.
“I won’t oppose every cut the coalition proposes. There will be will be some things the coalition does that we won’t like as a party but we will have to support.
“And come the next election there will be some things they have done that I will not be able to reverse.”
Miliband also called on the unions to avoid alienating the public, demanding no “overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes”.
The Labour leader also said he would not instantly oppose the coalition’s changes to benefits.
“I will look closely at whatever the government comes forward with: not arbitrary cuts to benefits but a genuine plan to make sure that those in need are protected and those who can work have the help they need to ensure they do so,” he said.
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