Without the right to strike, collective bargaining is reduced to ‘collective begging’ warned Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke at today’s (Tuesday 13 September) TUC conference.
Speaking in support of a composite on the Trade Union Act, Tony Burke argued now was the perfect moment in time to go beyond merely fighting anti-trade union legislation stretching back more than three decades.
“With a change of direction in the Labour party, we now have the opportunity to move beyond repeal and draw up a new framework of trade union rights and freedoms for workers and our unions,” he said.
Outlining what a new framework might look like, Burke called for new organising rights which do not exempt small companies and which protect workers from US-style ‘union busters’.
He also called for a return to collective bargaining at the sectoral level by enshrining collective bargaining rights into law for all workers irrespective of their employment status.
“The loss of these bargaining rights has seen a major decline in workers’ wages in the past three decades,” Burke noted, “the share of national income going to salaries and wages has fallen from 65 per cent in 1980 to 53 per cent in recent times.”
Burke also called for an end to bogus self-employment which undermines wages and conditions.
Most importantly, Burke argued that the right to strike must be ‘unequivocal’.
“We have lost count of the number of times our unions have been served with injunctions to stop strike and dispute action, sometimes for the most trivial reasons.” he said.
“You know the old story – wake up a High Court judge, give him a brandy, show him a headline from the Sun - and the injunction is granted.”
Urging Congress to stand up for positive trade union rights, he said: “Without an unambiguous right to strike, collective bargaining is reduced to collective begging.”
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Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.