Now is the time to fight for a new deal for workers

15 September By Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, UNITE Below is a video of, and the full text for, Tony Burke's speech in favour of Composite Motion 16 at TUC Congress, which supported the repeal of the Trade Union Act and called for a new framework for workers' rights.

Commentary icon15 Sep 2016|Comment

15 September

By Tony Burke, Assistant General Secretary, UNITE

Below is a video of, and the full text for, Tony Burke’s speech in favour of Composite Motion 16 at TUC Congress, which supported the repeal of the Trade Union Act and called for a new framework for workers’ rights.

Congress, we have been calling for repeal of anti-union laws for 30 years – a call that has continued to fall on deaf ears.

But with the change of direction in the Labour Party, we now have the opportunity to move beyond repeal and draw up a new framework of trade union rights and freedoms for workers and our unions.

And I commend the work of the Institute of Employment Rights in being steadfast in supporting our unions and for producing their excellent Manifesto for a positive reform of employment rights.

In going beyond repeal the new framework must address three fundamental issues.

Firstly, we must have a right to organise

  • new organising rights must go further than the current law with its exemptions for small companies and employer defined bargaining units
  • the right to organise must include a right of access to workers free from the influence of an employer and more importantly US style union busters
  • winning organising campaigns is important because a union presence in the workplace provides an independent ‘voice’ for workers and ensures that workplaces are more equal and safer.

Secondly, we must have a right to collective bargaining

  • the key impact of the anti-union laws has hastened the decline of union led collective bargaining at the sectoral level
  • the loss of these bargaining rights has seen a major decline in workers’ wages in the past three decades – the share of national income going to salaries and wages has fallen from 65% in 1980 to 53% in recent times
  • the restoration of sectoral bargaining will extend the benefits of a union negotiated agreement to all workers in an industry irrespective of their employment status
  • and no more bogus self-employment which undermine wages and conditions

Finally, we must have an unequivocal right to strike

Congress, we have lost count of the number of times our unions have been served with injunctions to stop strike and dispute action, sometimes for the most trivial reasons.

You know the old story – wake up a High Court judge, give him a brandy, show him a headline from the Sun – and the injunction is granted.

Without an unambiguous right to strike, collective bargaining is reduced to collective begging.

  • Congress – support the right to organise!
  • support the right to collective bargaining!
  • support the right to strike!
  • support the Composite – I second.

Tony Burke

Tony Burke is President of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions CSEU and chair of the Campaign For Trade... Read more »