Tuesday, August 28, 2012

General Council Chapter Two (just when you thought it was safe to go back into Congress)

Continuing the service to those in the movement who are interested, I've had a look at the second chapter of the Report of the TUC General Council to next month's Congress.

It's best not to read this chapter if in a depressed state to begin with (happily I wasn't). It starts with the observation that (on reasonably reliable Government data) we have lost 143,000 trade unionists, with a loss of 186,000 public sector trade unionists dwarfing an increase of 43,000 in the private sector.

Even the "good news" from the private sector isn't particularly good, since union density in the private sector is stuck at 14%, meaning that the movement is recruiting only one new member for every seven new jobs.

Almost three quarters of employees are not in a trade union, and more than two thirds work in an environment where their pay and conditions are not determined by collective bargaining. Less than 10% of workers aged 16-24 are in a union.

Having set this unhappy scene, Chapter Two then tries to cheer us up with references to the work of the TUC in supporting unions recruiting and organising, but this brief and timid positive theme then gives way to detailing TUC responses to a litany of Coalition inspired assaults on employee rights.

One of the best things about the General Council report is always the way in which it draws together everything so the reader can step back from their own everyday experience and be reminded of just what it is that we have been and are living through.

The Beecroft Report, the "Red Tape Challenge", the Employment Law Review, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, Employment Tribunal reforms... The list, if not endless, is certainly quite long enough.

We've already have the extension of the qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal and next year will see the introduction of fees to lodge tribunal complaints. In the mean time the Government are consulting now not on whether to reduce the minimum period for consultation on mass redundancies but only by how much.

Whereas the report can record that the European TUC (ETUC) has helped to block a Regulation which would have supported the anti-worker decisions of the European Court of Justice in the Viking and Laval cases, all it can say of the UK is that some of the more bonkers proposals have been shelved (and these are the proposals described as "bonkers" by Vince "savage cuts" Cable).

Although the chapter draws to a close with some less miserable references to the work of ACAS and the Better Regulation Executive, the overall message of Chapter Two is that a weakening and shrinking trade union movement is failing to prevent a legislative onslaught upon our individual and collective rights at work.

It is perhaps noteworthy (although not commented upon in this chapter) that the major countervailing factor to overall membership decline over the past year was the boost to recruitment (in UNISON in particular) in the run up to 30 November.

It may be that many among the millions of unorganised workers beyond our ranks can see all too well the attacks from the Cabinet of Millionaires and would join us if we inspired their confidence that we could resist these attacks.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

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