Thursday, 20 August 2015


THE Government and large sections of the press are scaremongering about unions again. Whilst current rules on balloting for a strike, a simple majority of those taking part in a ballot, needed reviewing, the proposed legislation is several steps too far. The Trade Union Bill would impose a minimum turnout of 50% and in the case of the public sector the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote. Using the same criteria for a General Election then only 56 0ut of the 330 Conservative MPs would have been elected. Turn out in many local elections are often less than 25% of the electorate!

  Why is there now such a pressing need for this legislation now? Well the present government was 'shackled' by coalition with the Liberal Democrats, so now they are free to implement this as one of a raft of 'true blue' Conservative policies. Their reasoning is the spike in days lost last year through industrial action. There are often spikes in these figures, with larger ones in recent history in 1996, 2002, and 2011. However if one analyses the trend over in 4 of the last 6 years the number of days lost was below the average for the last 25 years. The last 25 years averaged 520 days lost to strikes, whereas the average for the 20 years from 1970 to 1989 was 10,000 days per year.

  All this is happening when overwhelming evidence has been presented to the High Court just this month about  illegal use of data resulting in what appears to be blacklisting of workers in the construction industry by many of the major  firms. This at a time when there are allegations of 'undercover' spying by the police on unions and other organisations. However one has to be sympathetic to the plight of average police officers who have no right of strike but are facing cuts to the policing budget on a huge scale, reducing their ability to be pro-active. At the same time we are seeing solicitors and barristers protesting at the cuts to the Legal Aid Budget. And what about the rights of those on 'zero hours' contracts, whose numbers increased from 1.9% to 2.3% of the workforce from 2013 to 2014.

  For those of you who fear a return to the 70's when strikes were so prevalent this is not going to happen with or without this legislation. However our right to belong to a union, withdraw our labour, has been fought for over centuries. We cannot lose what those people, many from around here, John Bright and Sam Bamford to mention two, have worked for. Unions are imperfect like other organisations, but perform a vital service for the working man/woman. If you are not currently in one then please consider joining one, and even if you are not currently employed full time, UNITE have a Community Membership available for just 50p a week. Unions provide a voice for the people on a whole range of issues. Do not allow yourself to be brainwashed by the negativity in the media.

J. Wilkins (August 2015)

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