Thursday, 30 July 2015

Unison - helping to protect Thatcher's legacy

'We must neglect no opportunity to erode trade union membership'.

That is what Margaret Thatcher said in 1983. She thought that, believe this if you can, Norman Tebbit's approach to union reform was too moderate and more needed to be done to tackle 'the enemy within'. 

More than thirty years on the present iteration of Tories are seeking to pick up Mrs T's mantle with the Trade Union Bill currently before parliament.

The new bill would have delighted Mrs Thatcher. It makes the right to strike extremely difficult, and almost impossible in protected occupations, and as an added bonus it further jeopardises the link between unions and the Labour Party.

The stark fact is that Mr Cameron's anti-trade union bill is going to pass into legislation virtually unchanged and there is one reason for that. The Tories have a parliamentary majority.

There is another simple fact. This legislation wouldn't even be on the table if a Labour government was in office.

But we don't have a Labour government. We could have had one but ordinary people didn't think we spoke for them.

People wanted to vote for our brand of compassion but they didn't think we were competent. We weren't grown up enough to be trusted to run one of the worlds largest economies.

And now we're taking every possible step to ensure they never trust us again.

This leadership election is a defining moment for the Labour Party and trade unions. In 5 years the Trade Union Bill will be the Trade Union Act, who knows what other measures will be in place?

In 5 years Labour need to be a credible electoral force but right now the favourite to take us into that battle is a man who calls organisations with links to terrorism 'friends', a man who wants to compromise our national security by cancelling our nuclear deterrent, a man who wants to raise taxes to provide free higher education to the rich.

Labour has to question how they can become an electoral force once more. Patently Jeremy Corbyn isn't the answer.

Yet ludicrously, unbelievably trade unions are falling over themselves to nominate a man who will guarantee the Tories get more free reign to impose controls and restraints on them.

Before becoming a councillor I worked in and with local government for the best part of 20 years. I've been a member of Unison, and at times a steward, for a significant chunk of that period and since.

I desperately want to see a respectable Labour government in office, a government who can protect the weakest in society but can also unashamedly reach out to aspirational middle England.

It's for that reason that I am dismayed. Unison's National Labour Link Committee have been more than a little myopic, some might say foolish, in nominating Mr Corbyn.

Unison have always been a respected, moderate trade union but senior representatives have fallen into the trap of endorsing a comfort candidate who says lots of nice left wing stuff but who doesn't have the credibility to be visualised by the vast majority of voters as someone who can share a podium with a President Clinton or Bush.

In a few weeks Labour's new leader will be announced.

If and when Unison and other unions get what they wish for they must remember that they are, at least partly, responsible for the next round of legislation hurting their members when the Tories return a bigger majority in a few years time.

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