Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Tories are gunning for our Trade Unions (again)

I have long since stopped counting how many petitions I have signed
since May's General Election and I am becoming increasingly upset at the demolition job being done to our country by both the Tories in stripping away so much of our national assets in their frantic cash grab, and by Labour in their apparent complete failure to put up any sort of real opposition. Another urgent SumOfUs petition arrived by email yesterday morning and this time the existence of our Trade Unions is at stake.

I have mixed feelings about Trade Unions mostly based on my childhood experiences and memories. Mum, a primary school teacher and member of the NASUWT, did occasionally strike in the 1980s which infuriated my father because the family needed her wage and, obviously, she wouldn't get paid for those days she didn't work. For many years I understood What That Union Wants as simply an intimidating cause of anger and shouting - both at home and, via television coverage, in the wider world - and had little comprehension of the potential benefits of Union influence.

I have only had one job where Union membership was encouraged - working on a supermarket checkout - and it was only through the booklets and chats available at that time that I began to understand the aims of organisations more deeply. I do believe that Union leaders, when drunk on power, can be as dangerous to workers as Governments in the same condition. However, my reading of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists which ably demonstrated how terrible working conditions were just 100 years ago in Hastings has allowed me to appreciate the benefits of well-run Unions and I believe they are essential to protect workers rights in the UK - especially during this current period of change where it seems that private corporations are set to become the contemporary equivalents of the evil barons of Magna Carta era!

The media generally only publicises the work of Unions when negotiations have completely derailed and strikes are mooted. But thousands of workers have been helped with basic advice, guidance, support and legal aid over the years allowing them to work with dignity in safe environments for reasonable hours and for fair pay, free from worries about harassment and lack of job security. Our Unions are a democratic marvel and we allow them to be irrevocably diminished at our peril.

The SumOfUs email read as follows:

The UK government is about to eliminate our rights to collectively bargain for safe working conditions, fair wages and healthy working hours and we have just weeks to stop it. In the biggest attack on workers' rights in 30 years, David Cameron's government is pushing through legislation that will bring our trade unions to their knees. It will make legal strikes all but impossible, potentially criminalise picketing, allow corporations to hire strike-breaking agency staff and introduce rules that are aimed squarely at bankrupting unions.

Our trade unions are worth defending. They protect ordinary workers - care workers, teachers, nurses, shop workers, cleaners - from poor conditions, low pay and unfair dismissal. But now they need our help.

David Cameron: scrap the Trade Union Bill. It's unnecessary, undemocratic and deeply unjust.


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