Tory conference attack on civil service trade unions

Submitted by sglenister on Wed, 10/10/2012 - 11:54

10 October 2012

By Roger Jeary

Two months ago I wrote about the "consultation" which the government issued concerning trade union facilities time in the civil service. My prediction that "I am equally certain that the consultation is simply a means of going through the motions with the outcome previously determined" was on Monday (8th October 2012) borne out by the announcements made by Francis Maude at the Tory Party Conference.

The announcement will restrict trade union members in the civil service to a maximum of half their time being spent on trade union duties. Every department will have imposed a financial limit of 0.1% of its pay bill for trade union duties, less than half the current average, and a total ban on paid leave to carry out ‘trade union activities’.

In a confused message, the minister is also likely to say that trade union representatives spending all their time on union work will be excluded from being promoted. At the very least this contradicts the decision that no one will be allowed to spend more than half their time, but more significantly suggests that discrimination against trade union representatives will be permitted in the Civil Service!

The Cabinet Office is quoted in the Guardian as saying: “We think trade union facility time arrangements in the civil service should reflect those in business and the wider public sector." Well perhaps the Cabinet Office should look more closely at the best practice in the private sector where full time convenors and trade union secondees are commonly found in the automotive, aerospace finance and other industries and I need hardly remind ministers that these sectors have been the bedrock of the private sector economy throughout the turbulent economic climate currently being experienced.

Yet again the dogma of right wing Tory backbenchers, ably supported by the Taxpayers Alliance, has pushed a failing conservative government to find some traditional anti-union breadcrumbs for the party faithful as they gather in Birmingham this week to counter the uncomfortable truth about an economy still in recession and still adding to its debt under their watch.

These announcements today may be confined to the civil service but watch this space for similar attacks on health and local government trade unionists from May and Hunt.

What this means for trade unionists is the imperative is there now to engage with the potential next government and establish clear policies/commitments which will restore trade union rights to representation in all workplaces.

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