17 July 2014
On the back of last Thursday’s strike action, the Tories continue attack on trade union rights
David Cameron has confirmed that further reductions to trade union freedoms will be part of the Conservative’s 2015 manifesto. His statements come on the back of last week’s mass strike of over a million public sector workers, who according to TUC research, are on average more than £2000 worse off since the coalition came to power in 2010 – a real terms pay cut of 20%.
The co-ordinated action against the government’s brutal austerity measures saw members of the NUT, GMB, PCS, FBU, Unison and Unite walking out in the biggest strike in three years.
Unsuprisingly, the Tories have responded with anti-union rhetoric and further threats to the right to strike. Cameron announced that he aims to impose a threshold on the number of members required to vote in a ballot to make strike action legal, and a time limit on how long a mandate remains valid.
The policy has already been championed by Boris Johnson, who wants a threshold to be set at 50%. The blatant hypocrisy of this attempt to effectively ban strike action has not gone unnoticed.
Even Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke, a member of the Trade Union Reform Campaign group of anti-union MPs said that the policy was “difficult to justify when you don’t have that for Westminister elections” – indeed, not a single Tory MP would have met the same criteria.
The TUC has responded to the latest attacks with a letter to Vince Cable, pointing out that if the anachronistic ballot methods were updated to include online voting, turn out would be much higher. At the moment, letters must be sent out to members’ home addresses, a regulation not updated since the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.
General secretary of the TUC Frances O’Grady responded by pointing out that British workers already face some of the toughest barriers to taking industrial action of almost any advanced democracy. She said that “with workers facing the biggest and longest cut in their living standards since Victorian times and growing insecurity at work, we need policies to boost incomes, create decent jobs and give people a real say at work, not this return to Thatcherite nostrums.”
Polls show that the majority of the public supported Thursday’s industrial action. This is the latest in a long line of evidence showing the Coalition’s assault on public services and those that provide them is out of touch with public opinion.
Institute of Employment Right’s President Keith Ewing has reported on the similarity of these restrictive policies with trade union legislation in Bulgaria and Romania – countries with some of the lowest labour standards in the EU. Read the full article here.
Similar proposals are underway in Greece at the moment. There, creditors are demanding changes to Greece’s 30 year old laws on trade union freedoms. The changes mean that a strike could only be called with 50% of union members’ approval. The Panhellenic Socialist Movement, PASOK, has publicly condemned the measures. Moreover, such changes to the law will undoubtedly come in for criticism from the ILO Committee of Experts who have already criticised the similar proposals in Bulgaria and Romania.
More on the situation in Greece to follow.