Monday, September 18, 2006

The real scandal behind the payout

The story in today’s Guardian, about confidential payments allegedly made by the TGWU to a couple of its members is initially shocking. We tend not to think of trade unions as being respondents in litigation and having to make payments – though actually such cases are inevitably not uncommon.

On reflection, and reading between the lines a little, there is a real scandal behind this story. The scandal is that nine years and four months into a Labour Government we still have such illiberal labour laws that trade union members cannot safely take solidarity action.

Not for the first time I find myself agreeing with John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and leadership contender, who said the size of the payout was "bizarre”.

I agree with John when he says that “this shows the need for a new trade union freedom bill which legalises limited solidarity action by workers in disputes like the Gate Gourmet affair and would have prevented the T&G being put in this position."

Why should trade unionists face dismissal if they are prepared to take solidarity action to show support for brothers and sisters who are victims of injustice?

As I reported last week from the TUC, the union movement is now united in support of the Trade Union Freedom Bill, which has the support of 182 MPs. Now we need to take the campaign back out onto the streets and into the Labour Party. Tony Woodley was right to say at the TUC that workers need unions more than ever. Unions also need legal rights and freedoms to be able to defend workers' interests.

If you are not yet persuaded you can download a detailed briefing from the Institute of Employment Rights at their website.

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