“What have the unions ever done for us?”
“Well, except for weekends off, what have the unions ever done for us?!”
You get the picture. Monty Python and the Life of Brian. This week saw the Tory government fire the starting pistol to strangle the last dying breaths of Trade Union resistance, by outlining a series of draconian measures not seen since the attack on trade unionism in the UK by Norman Tebbit in the 1980s under the Thatcher Government.
In an extract from the Guardian, the proposed Javid measures include:
• Require all unions, not just those affiliated to Labour, to ask each existing union member whether they wish to pay the political levy and then repeat the question every five years. The £25m annual political fund income from 4.5 million political levy payers funds a wide range of political campaigning including being a chief source of funding for Labour.
• Propose that unlawful or intimidatory picketing should become a criminal as opposed to civil offence and new protections should be available for those workers unwilling to strike. A named official will be required to be available at all times to the police to oversee the picket including the numbers on the line, currently set at six, in an existing code of conduct.
Now, I am not likening unions, nor government or employers to terrorists (not today at any rate) but the message is the same; if you do not reward honourable people who negotiate and wait patiently in good faith for you to do the right thing, do not be surprised when they strike. What other option is left open to them? Unions are often labelled the bad guys, ‘the enemies within’ because they stand to defend hard won rights, rights we take advantage of every day. They wouldn’t strike if management and governments entered into negotiations in good faith.