28 November 2013
The People’s Assembly has provided a channel through which UK workers can fight back against the Coalition’s attack on trade unions in the form of an online petition.
On November 19, it was reported that the government would be launching an inquiry into trade union tactics following industrial action at Grangemouth Oil Refinery.
The Coalition have posted judge Bruce Carr QC to head the review, who has historically won several cases against trade union action, including an adjunction against British Airways staff when they planned to strike during the Christmas period.
Among the issues covered by the inquiry will be the affect of industrial action on stakeholder confidence in different sectors, as well as whether the law needs to be tightened on what the government are calling “inappropriate or intimidatory actions” during trade disputes and how police deal with complaints.
The Liberal Democrats made an attempt to distance themselves from the anti-trade union sentiment many will find evident in the inquiry, with Business Secretary Vince Cable saying he only agreed with the review going ahead as long as employers’ practices were also investigated, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg arguing that blacklisting would also be covered by the investigation.
A spokesman from Unite called the inquiry “a sorry attempt by the Coalition to divert attention from the cost of living crisis,” according to the Guardian.
“Vince Cable may not have noticed by the Grangemouth dispute has been settled. This review is nothing more than a Tory election stunt, which no trade unionist will collaborate with,” he added.
Indeed, although Clegg is determined that blacklisting will be discussed as part of this wider review, it is revealing that the government are so eager to push ahead with this inquiry when they have so far refused to take any considered look at the decades-long issue of blacklisting that has affected thousands of workers.
Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude was quick to give air time to “allegations” of trade union “attempts to sabotage businesses’ supply chains and harass employers’ families”. But no Tory has yet paid any due concern to the action of employers blacklisting employees on the basis of inconvenient health and safety concerns, perfectly legal trade union action, or even political party membership. That’s even after evidence has shown that the families of workers have also been blacklisted simply for being related to a person in a trade union!
As such, there is understandable concern that this is nothing but a political move on the Conservative Party’s behalf in the run up to the 2015 General Election. Trade unions are historically associated with Labour and some continue to support the Party, so discrediting the labour movement would be a double boon to the Tories over the next 18 months – a chance to dent support for the opposition at the same time as leaning yet more industrial power to employers over employees.
To sign your name in opposition to the inquiry, click here