Trade Union Bill

It has been well documented in recent months that the Trade Union bill is the biggest attack on trade union members since the dark days of Thatcher. An ideological and vicious attempt to suppress the workers of this country from defending themselves from the excesses of capitalism, that goes to the very heart of our human and civil rights.

So what do we make of of the latest intervention from Unite leader, Len McCluskey, in a letter to David Cameron? Len seems to be in favour of the element of the bill that deals with ballots. In particular, where it seeks to enforce a 50% turnout of those entitled to vote with the addition that 40% of those entitled to vote, votes in favour, but only if a deal could be done that would require an amendment to the bill to bring in secure workplace ballots using online and electronic voting.

So what is the thinking behind this? Is he concerned that people see this as a sensible move and he doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of public opinion, as suggested by the guardian? Or is it a tactical move where  McCluskey is seen to be the reasonable one, willing to compromise and therefore able to take the moral high ground?

The reason I say this is because if he really believed in the plans for ballots, incorporated in the bill, then why didn’t he demand similar plans for other ballots, in his letter to the prime minister? Why didn’t he demand this for the general election for example? At the last election, the Tories got 36.9% of the vote out of those who voted, that means they only received 24.42% of those eligible to vote. If you agree with the principle of what is proposed in the trade union bill, then what mandate do the Tories have to govern this country? Now that would have put you on the moral high ground, but he didn’t argue that.

My understanding is that Len McCluskey said much the same thing at a meeting of the National Executive recently, but there was little discussion and certainly no decision taken. So when he says “Were you to be able to accept this modern and democratic proposal to update balloting procedures then Unite, for its part, would be comfortable about accepting the thresholds and the time limit on the validity of ballots proposed in the trade union bill, without prejudice to our position on other elements of the legislation.”, on whose behalf is he speaking? Certainly not Unite members and certainly not the 100,000 people who marched outside the Tory party conference in Manchester.

Mr McCluskey’s letter to the prime minister and his nervous defence of what he had written, on the Andrew Marr show came as a surprise to most. It puts him at odds with the Labour Party leadership (for markedly different reasons than in the past), his trade union leader comrades and his union’s membership.

Ultimately the message that he has given out is that he is a Trade Union leader who is willing to do deals with the Tories and what else will he be willing to concede? That is what will come out of this. He has put himself and Unite at odds with everyone else opposed to this bill. He has weakened his own and Unite’s position and has made himself a laughing stock.

Not the smartest thing you’ve done Mr McCluskey.


8 responses to “Trade Union Bill

  • socialistfight

    Reblogged this on Socialist Fight and commented:
    Very pleasing to see a revolt in Unite against this appalling act of treachery by McCluskey on this attack on the fundamental rights of the organised working class.

    And it’s worse than Thatcher, because it adds to her list of attacks elements she did not date to attempt.

  • huminho79

    This is a joke from “Red Len”. What about “Kill the Bill”? At a time where he should be leading the fight as the leader of the largest trade union in the UK(as we are constantly reminded), he is cosying up to Bacon baws Cameron. Disgraceful!

  • huminho79

    What happened to “Kill the Bill”? Where did “Red Len” get the mandate to make such a statement? At a time when he should be leading the fight as the leader of the UK’s largest trade union(which we are constantly reminded of), he is cosying up to Bacon Baws Cameron!

  • Ian Allinson

    Apart from the spelling of McCluskey, this article makes some very important points about Unite’s stance on the bill.

  • Raymond

    Hot on the tail of the comments about job’s being the greatest issue for Unite when it comes to Trident and weapons of mass destruction, we now have the this retreat over the Tories anti trade union legislation. Some may be inclined to ask what is going on Len?

    This is a good piece that points out the Tory hypocrisy over participation in internal elections. It’s just been reported that Zac Goldsmith had been endorsed as the Tory mayoral candidate with only 9,227 Tories actually bothering to vote at al!

  • socialistfight

    By their silence you shall know them? Where are the Lefts in United Left now?

    We waited with bated breath for the Morning Star to show us the way forward. On Monday 5 October there was no mention whatsoever to the appalling act of class treachery. But on Tuesday the new line was up and running – Red Len had done a very clever thing! Outrageously that nasty Tory business secretary Sajid Javid has “slapped down a compromise (!!) over strike ballots yesterday, branding unions ‘bullies’. Javid had ‘slammed the door in the unions’ face by twice singling out Mr McCluskey for attack”. Who would have thought that the Tories would be so nasty to someone who had grovelingly offered to surrender to them? It may well be enough for him to join Sir Paul in the House of Lords because Javid has not rejected the offer at all, it is clear from the piece, he just could not stop himself from gloatingly contemptuously at the grovel.

    But the Star Comment of the same day clarifies their position even more. Javid “showed just how much respect he has for ordinary people when he responded to an offer from Unite to accept draconian new turnout thresholds imposed on strike ballots in return for secure workplace balloting.” If they are “draconian” why should we accept them at all? And this without even a fight?

    And did McCluskey have the endorsement of the Unite Executive to make this offer? What of the leading lefts, Martin Mayer, Sean McGovern et al who had chosen Jeremy Corbyn in preference to McCluskey’s preference Andy Burnham? The MS connections and their silence shows how left the United Left is in the face of this existential challenge to trade union organisation. Fortunately some in Unite like the Unite Scottish Rank and File not prepared to lie down on this. It really is time to organise a proper rank and file movement in Unite in response countrywide against this, the Grass Roots Left will certainly cooperate in any way we can in achieving this.

  • Renage Spark

    I think Red Len is thinking that the reforms to the voting system will help out for the Public Sector,where the majority are still in Unions and this will let them ballot more easily for industrial action,and get mass organised rallies that he likes to show up at.
    But it is a two fingered approach to everyone that is a Unite member in the private sector.

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