Sunday, 11 January 2015

Conservatives pledge to be more anti-trade union

The Conservatives are planning more anti-trade union legislation if they are in government beyond 2015. Under draconian new plans, strike ballots will not be valid unless at least 40% of members vote in favour of strike action. This isn't a minimum turnout level, it means that a close ballot will require a turnout of almost 80% for strike action to be legal. To put the figure into perspective general election turnout is around 60% Council elections are around 30% and the some police commissioners gained the support of fewer than 10% of the electorate.

This move is further evidence that the Tories are retreating to their old ways: It is as if the last 30 years never happened. Most employers no longer view unions as the enemy, and most unions are not at war with employers. Forward looking employers work with unions to improve staff relations and solve problems proactively. Unions work with employers to safeguard jobs and pay even when budgets are under pressure.

Strike action is always a last resort - refusal to work for a day or an extended period is by its very nature, a failure of all other negotiations. It results in hardship for workers and damage to employers. Unions only call strike action when jobs are at risk or hard won terms and conditions are under threat. Members only vote in favour of strike action when they feel they have exhausted other options.

Before elections, governments make many promises. Pledging to be more anti trade union is a strange promise, unlikely to win many friends other than traditional Conservatives who, like their leadership, cling onto an outdated vision of industrial relations. Policies like this are more about stopping old school Tories turning to UKIP and appeasing backbenchers. It is yet another case of David Cameron putting the interests of the Conservative party before the National interest.

The big issue facing the country today is not that workers have too many rights. It is that too many people are on working too few hours in precarious jobs. There are areas of employment law where there is need for change; to prevent extended use of exploitative zero hours contracts, which trap people unable to get on the housing ladder or plan for the future.

In making changes to strike ballots pre-election pledge, we can see that Conservatives have very different priorities than most people. They are out of touch, this year, they could also also find themselves out of government.

No comments: