Without prior warning, Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, has announced he will retire later this year. Barber is only the 9th TUC general secretary since its formation in 1922.
He left university in 1974. A year later he joined the TUC as a policy officer, then worked his way up the TUC promotion ladder.
Throughout his 38 years there Barber has never built a union branch, led a strike or been elected by the membership.
Trade union leaders are at a distance from their members’ working conditions—Barber’s career shows how the TUC bureaucracy is even further removed.
He made no impact in the trade union movement—until the present pensions battle.
According to the TUC website Barber “led the organisation of the huge half million strong March for the Alternative in March 2011, and co-ordinated the negotiations and industrial action over public pensions on 30 November 2011.”
This generous claim ignores his treacherous role in the dispute. In 2010 Barber wanted to invite government business secretary Vince Cable to address the TUC conference. The invite was rescinded after a mini-revolt by some union leaders.
Then last year Barber was exposed as holding secret talks with Tory ministers. His final act of betrayal was to push through the heads of agreement deal on pensions in December.
Barber knows his pensions sellout was the end of him, and that the two big unions—Unison and Unite, are building their own power bases in opposition to the TUC.
However John Cridland, head of the bosses’ CBI, had this to say about him: “Brendan has been the rational face of trade unionism, showing an understanding of the pressures UK business face to remain globally competitive. Brendan’s measured leadership has been very much in evidence in dispute resolution, particularly in the public sector”.
Thanks Brendan—I guess it’s the House of Lords for you and I’m sure your generous pension is safe.