Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey offered last week to abandon opposition to a key section of David Cameron’s new Trade Union Bill.
If the Tories allow electronic voting in industrial action ballots, he said Unite “would be comfortable about accepting” thresholds and time limits that could rule many ballots out.
This angered many people on last Sunday’s TUC march.
Mark, a Unison union member from London, said, “I don’t agree with Len McCluskey at all. If we make a concession on one thing then they’ll just come for another.”
Helen, a Unison member from Bridgend, said, “The Tories are attacking us because of union leaders saying things like that.”
The Unite leader told Socialist Worker, “If we get workplace ballots the threshold becomes an irrelevance. Trust me—I’ve been in enough disputes and enough ballots to last a lifetime.
“It puts the Tories on the back foot. They’re going to have to now demonstrate either they have to reach that type of agreement with us or we’ll expose them for being disingenuous.”
Electronic voting is attractive for union leaders as a way to cut costs. But signalling surrender, even on just one aspect of the bill, will only embolden the Tories.
They want union leaders to fear the laws, police their own members and stifle action.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn rightly says he opposes all measures in the bill. Councillors in every area could follow the lead of those in Scotland and refuse to implement them.
But beating them will require building struggle and solidarity. At the end of the TUC demo a 450-strong Unite the Resistance rally tapped into a mood to do that.
Reinstated PCS union rep Candy Udwin paid tribute to the support that had helped sustain the fight at the National Gallery (see page 3).
Barnet Unison secretary John Burgess praised the strikers for defending their rep, saying, “It’s about time other unions did the same.”
John also said his branch would strike when the TUC lobbies parliament over the bill on 2 November. Others should do the same. As Bfawu union president Ian Hodson argued, “To defend the right to strike we have to use it.”
Sean Vernell from Unite the Resistance agreed, “If there’s one thing they are most frightened of it is organised labour.”
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