Update ‘We must win the fight for trade union freedom’ Len McCluskey speaking at the launch rally of the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom
he fight for trade union freedoms, our legal right to represent our members has gone on for too long. It is fight we must win urgently. It should be a matter of great shame that in 21st Century Britain ordinary working people can have such basic rights withheld from them. For more than three decades trade union freedoms have been cut away and curtailed. The legacy of the Thatcher government – its unrelenting attack on the lives of ordinary workers and their families – has lingered on into the 21st Century. Organised Labour, our most effective tool for working people to achieve social change and improvements now faces legal restrictions that apply to no other organisations in our society. At the same time as successive governments have shackled trade unions, they have been deregulating and setting-free corporations and the markets to wreak havoc.
We now know that this growing imbalance has been bad for society and bad for the economy, causing the greatest economic crash of all time. Successive governments have been determined to silence the voice of ordinary workers. Tragically, the Labour Party, the Party our forefathers and foremothers created to be the voice of organised labour, failed to ditch one single restriction on trade unions introduced by the Tories. Worse still Tony Blair boasted that his government would “leave British law the most restrictive on trade unions in the Western world”. The result of this shameful collusion between our political elites has been: an ever growing gap between rich and poor, a dramatic decline in the wealth that goes into the pockets of working people and capitalism brought to its knees by neo-liberalism left unchallenged and unchecked. The fall in collective bargaining agreements nationally and across
Campaign for Trade Union Freedom Centre for Labour and Social Studies Institute of Employment Rights
Sunday, 8 September Branksome Suite, Bournemouth International Conference Centre 7pm to 9pm
Issue 2 SUMMER 2013
sectors has been a key factor in increasing inequality. The International Labour Organisation says countries with strong support for collective bargaining have a significantly smaller wage gap between those at the top and those at the bottom. And yet the past three decades have been characterised by rising inequality and a low wage economy. Between 1975 and 2013 – the share of our national income used to pay the wages of ordinary people fell from 65% to 53%. The total of UK workers covered by collective bargaining is now 23%. Thirteen years of Labour standing still on trade union rights has led the way for the Tory led Coalition restart their attack on employment rights just where they left off and we are moving backwards once again. And the arrogance with which this government behaves can leave no one in any doubt about the magnitude of the attack we now face. Putting venture capitalist Adrian Beecroft, who heads Wonga.com, in charge of employment rights was like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. The trouble is there is not one shred of evidence supporting Tory ideas. We have already seen Redundancy Notice cut in half 90 days to 45 – the tip of the iceberg if the Coalition gets its way. They are pushing ahead with the discredited ‘shares for rights scheme’, which employment lawyers and employers say won’t work. Only the Coalition could tell you that you can create jobs by making employment more insecure and letting bosses sack at will. It is the politics of the madhouse. That is why I and Unite supports the Campaign For Trade Union Freedom. n
l Christine Blower general secretary, NUT l Bob Crow general secretary, RMT l Professor Keith Ewing president, IER l John Hendy QC vice president, CTUF l Len McCluskey general secretary, Unite the Union l Chair: Carolyn Jones director, IER Sponsored by Thompsons Solicitors Refreshments Provided
After the fringe celebrations will continue at the GFTU Fish and Chip supper and song night. Banner Theatre, First of May Band, Grace Petrie, Robb Johnson and the audience. Political song at its best, Devonshire Suite, Marriott Highcliff Hotel, 8 till late.