It’s been a Government heaping huge pressure on the public sector with the continuing deep financial cuts. Obviously that has led to ongoing anger with teachers, firemen, nurses, the list can go on. In July private sector workers went on strike all over the country over pay, pensions and cuts. Ahead of the General Election in May, the Conservatives are establishing their policy, if they are returned to power, of making it increasingly difficult for Trade Unions to conjure up the required support to lead a strike.
The proposed plan is that public sector workers in key sectors will only be able to strike if a vote of 40% of a Trade Union’s members agree to strike. The plans also include scrapping the ban on allowing agency workers to cover those on strike; the proposal would be the solution for the problems caused by the strikes by London Underground workers last year for example. Unions have come out in anger at the Conservative’s proposals considering the difficulty there would now be start a strike in the public sector. Prior to the new plans Conservatives had already proposed the turnout for a ballot in deciding strike action would need a 50% turnout to be legitimate.
The TUC general Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said ‘The Conservatives know that this threshold will effectively end the right to strike in the public sector. No democracy elsewhere in the world has this kind of restriction on industrial action.’ Then adding ‘It is a democratic outrage, especially as the Conservatives have opposed allowing secure and secret online balloting – the one measure guaranteed to increase turnouts.’ The point made certainly has weight. Many would question why is it one rule for politicians getting into Westminster but everyone else must have a more democratic system? The Conservatives are wrapping this up as a campaign to make Trade Unions more democratic giving strike’s more legitimacy. At the current time voting for your Trade Union to strike is only allowed via a postal vote which is now seen as a relic by many leading to some deciding not to vote. Instead of becoming confrontational with Unions surely a simpler step would be to change the method of voting to give democracy in these institutions a chance. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the way to “resolve disputes was through negotiations – not to intimidate and silence by legislation”.
There is a growing apathy with politicians deriving in part out of claims they are not understanding the needs of the common man. The Conservatives continued collision course with many areas of the public sector may well come back to hurt them come May time. Labour have labelled the plans as ‘desperate stuff’. Attacking the democratic system of Unions is hardly fair when the Conservatives dominate a Government that only gained 36% of the vote in the General Election of 2010. An election in which two-thirds of MPs gained their seat without gaining 50% of the vote in their constituency. The saying people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones certainly comes to mind.