Month: January 2015

A Warning

In his latest book Owen Jones describes how the Establishment have used their power to silence and marginalise those that challenge their interests.

The announcement that the Tories will seek to make it harder for public sector workers to take strike action should they win the next election, underlines the extent to which vested interest will continue to try to silence any voice raised in opposition.

The proposals are that any strike affecting transport, health, fire services or schools would need the support of 40% of eligible union members. This follows on from suggestions that there would need to be a minimum 50% turn-out in strike ballots.

As an active trade unionist I know the challenges that we have faced in recent years and the challenges we continue to face as we approach the general election.

Unions have played an important role during the years of the coalition government in opposing the austerity agenda. Whether its been challenging the 1% cap on pay in the public sector or through opposing changes to the retirement age and pensions.

Wider than this, unions have also been pivotal in organising demonstrations and providing alternative ideas to the government cuts agenda such as through the STUC Better Way Campaign.

It also appears that the general public see unions as having an important role to play with almost 80% of the public agreeing that trade unions are essential to protect workers interests (1).

The main thrust of the Tory argument would appear to be that as not enough members take part in strike ballots then unions should not be able to go ahead with their proposed action.

However, when suggestions are put forward about making it easier for members to vote, for example through on-line voting, any interest in democracy seems to fade.

Even more so when questions start to be asked about what proportion of the electorate support those that are putting forward these proposals.

The GMB estimates that only 15 Tory MPs out of 303 secured the level of support which unions are being asked to command.

All of this means that it is difficult to conclude that these proposals are not so much about making sure that unions reflect the interests of their members, but more about stacking the odds in favour of the Establishment and vested interest from May 2015 onwards.

We have been warned.

(1) Ipsos Mori (2013) Attitudes to Trade Unions 1975- 2013