Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Stop gagging local unions in Barnet Council - sign the petition!
Hard right Tory MP Aiden Burley (forever to be associated with a "stag do" where one of the guests thought a Nazi uniform funny) may be standing down from Parliament at the next election, but the poisonous legacy of his anti-union views has not been eliminated.
Burley led the so-called "Trade Union Reform Campaign", a failed attempt by less civilised elements on the Tory right to gain respectability for their visceral hostility to the collective organisation of working people.
However, whilst Burley's antics helpfully discredited his own cause, hostility to trade unions is both broader and deeper than the right-wing fringe - as exemplified by Boris Johnson's perennial attempts to substitute anti-union rants for managerial responsibility.
For UNISON members the current attack upon Barnet UNISON is very much a case in point. Having pressed ahead with an ill-advised scheme for mass privatisation (of which the citizens of Barnet now have no choice but to repent at leisure) the Tory Council appear determined to do as much damage as they can to workplace trade union organisation before they face the voters (and the risk of losing control of the Council) in May.
Effective trade union organisation in all but the smallest local authorities has for some years generally been accompanied by sensible agreements on "trade union facility time". That's because the work of co-ordinating the representation of hundreds of workers needs one or more people available at any time (in a way that a shop steward who needs permission to "walk off the job" cannot be).
However, because the legal foundations for this customary arrangement are based upon the statutory right to paid time off work to deal with matters with one's own employer, mass privatisation (or the general diversification of service provision) opens a door through which reactionaries can charge in order to seek to undermine union organisation.
This is precisely what Barnet's Tory Council is now trying to do, and the link above is to an online petition in opposition to this attack which I would urge all readers to sign.
The trade unions across London need to give the highest priority to ousting Barnet's Tories in order to decapitate an attack upon public services and workers' rights which is of national significance (rather than, for example, devoting resources to Labour's campaign in Tower Hamlets, where the peculiar parochial politics of that borough are of no wider relevance whatsoever).
The front line in the battle to defend trade unions in local government is today in the London Borough of Barnet.
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the EE network.