Monday, 28 September 2015

Unite boss attacks Trades Union Bill as unnecessary and illiberal.

Speaking at the Labour Party conference today Len McCluskey leader of the UNITE trades union likened the government's Trades Union Bill to the sort of tactics used against organised labour by the Nazis, as reported by the BBC.

He told delegates the bill was 'an unnecessary, illiberal and spiteful attack on free trades unionism' and went on to say they should 'remember that's what the Nazis did- trades unionists in the concentration camps at Dachau- made to wear armbands with red triangles.'

Mr McCluskey said that he would not be wearing an armband when he supported UNITE members on the picket line.

The bill also doubles the notice period for unions calling strikes from seven to fourteen days and would allow employers to use agency staff to break strikes.

The government has expressed concerns about the legitimacy of strike ballots based on turnouts, Mr McCluskey and UNITE have offered to work with ministers on this issue in return for reform on how votes are carried out.

In his speech he said that if government concerns over strike ballots were genuine they should end the 'archaic and undemocratic reliance on postal votes and give trades unionists the right to secure, secret workplace balloting.'

A Department for Business spokesperson told the BBC today the changes to trades union laws weren't 'about banning strikes' but there was a need to 'get the balance right between the interests of trades unionists and the interests of the majority of people who rely on important public services.'

The Trades Union Bill passed its first parliamentary hurdle earlier this month with a majority of just thirty three votes.

The rhetoric used by Len McCluskey was of a sort that has almost vanished from Labour Party conferences, relegated to fringe meetings for the discontented during the slickly scripted years under Blair and Brown as the conference became a glorified trade show. Now with the advent of Jeremy Corbyn it is suddenly centre stage again as the party tries to reconnect with its roots.

Invoking the Nazis is a somewhat dodgy debating tactic, their methods and the crimes that resulted from them were unique; but look beyond that and it is possible to see that the UNITE leader has a valid point.

The proposed changes to trades union laws could take industrial relations in this country into a dark place that few of us would wish to visit.

Do we want of live in a country where working people exercising one of their democratic rights have to inform the police before doing so? How about one where one group of workers can be drafted in to break a strike by another?

In countries that operate on such a basis trade and most other things are seldom free. Liberty is a delicate organism, exposure to poorly drafted laws can do it fatal harm.

There is a distinct sense that the Trades Union Bill is just such a law, badly thought out and seemingly aimed at fighting battles from the 1980's not addressing the economic problems of the twenty first century. It is certainly an odd position for a Tory party that claims to be on the side of working people to be seeking to dilute some of their most fundamental rights.

If any of the other three candidates had won the Labour leadership contest the party would have made concerned noises about the dismantling of worker's rights; but done precious little to halt the bill's progress. You get the impression that the new, old, Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn intends to fight it every step of the way as a matter of principle.

In the long run that could be a good thing not just for the right of working people to withdraw their labour; but for the freedoms we all enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment