A ten point plan to strengthen workers’ rights in the UK


9:30 am - September 23rd 2013

by Newswire    


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The think-tank Institute of Employment Rights has today published a set of policy proposals to strenthen the labour movement and collective bargaining in the UK.

They point out that economic growth and resilience is strengthened by the resulting increase in demand for businesses’ services and products when income inequality is reduced.

The ten-point manifesto is aimed at Labour MPs

1) A Ministry of Labour should be established: to give working people a voice in government to counteract the voice of powerful corporate interests. One of the duties of the new department will be to promote collective bargaining;

2) ACAS should encourage sectoral collective bargaining: Legislation should be introduced to delegate from the proposed Ministry of Labour to ACAS (or a similar body) the duty to encourage the establishment of sectoral collective bargaining;

3) Employers should be encouraged to participate in collective agreements: The legislation should include measures designed to oblige all employers to participate in these arrangements, including a provision that participation is a pre-condition of the award of all public contracts;

4) Sectoral bargaining should determine pay and conditions: The legislation relating to sectoral bargaining should make provision for the determination of pay and other working conditions, provide procedures for the resolution of disputes, and deal with skills, training and productivity;

5) Sectoral bargaining agreements should be inderogable: The legislation relating to sectoral bargaining should provide for the legalisation of sectoral agreements, so that the appropriate terms of the agreements in question become inderogable terms and conditions of all workers in the sector;

6) CAC should resolve disputes about sectoral boundaries: The legislation relating to sectoral bargaining should include a power vested in the CAC to resolve disputes about sectoral boundaries, and to determine which collective agreement is applicable to which employer in case of disputes;

7) The new scheme should be implemented gradually and flexibly: The statutory scheme providing for sectoral bargaining should be implemented gradually and flexibly, the agencies responsible for its development being empowered to respond to the specific needs of each sector; in industries without the apparent infrastructure to support collective bargaining, wages councils should be instituted;

8) Trade unions should be recognised where 10% of the workforce are members: There should be an overhaul of the statutory recognition procedure so that trade unions are entitled to be recognised by an employer on demonstrating 10% membership and evidence of majority support verified by the CAC;

9) Every trade union should have the right to bargain on behalf of its members: When that threshold for recognition on behalf of a defined bargaining unit is not met there should be a statutory right of every trade union to recognition by an employer to bargain on behalf of its members;

10) Every worker should have the right to be represented by their trade union: The existing statutory right to be accompanied should be overhauled so that every worker has the right to be represented by his or her trade union on all matters relating to his or her employment.

The ten-point manifesto has already attracted the official backing of Unite, Unison, GMB, NUT, PCS, CWU, UCU, RMT and ATL.

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Reader comments


1. So Much For Subtlety

This nonsense does not strengthen Workers’ rights. It strengthens Trades Unions. 10% of workers can force the other 90% to join the Union? Top Union officials and their mates in government can set terms and conditions for the entire sector – whether or not workers have joined the union or not?

Come on. This is rubbish. No one is going to buy the sort of policies that gave us the Winter of Discontent. Trotsky is dead. Time for you all to move on.

“No one is going to buy the sort of policies that gave us the Winter of Discontent. ”

This is the point, isn’t it? We have all the woes of Thatcherism and the wasted opportunities of North Sea Oil revenues thanks to a few irresponsible union bosses in the 70s. Labour will never forget their betrayal.

At the same time we have seen wages stagnate as the cost of living rises, workers’ rights eroded and much more while tax-avoiding businesses siphon our nation’s wealth overseas. Just reviewing the NMW doesn’t cut it.

Well-run unions are essential for a just society, sadly most are dinosaurs rife with secrecy, factionalism, bullying and incompetence. Members need to be given more of the sorts of freedom of information we have in public life before these sorts of powers are considered.

It’s a pity we don’t have German-style unions.

@1. So Much For Subtlety: “This nonsense does not strengthen Workers’ rights. It strengthens Trades Unions.”

Are you sure? The OP proposes creation of a Ministry of Labour allegedly ‘to give working people a voice’. Does that ring any bells? It proposes that ACAS, an independent organisation, should manage pay claims on behalf of the Ministry of Labour. And if not ACAS, then ‘a similar body’ which usurps the independence of ACAS.

The propositions are that ‘somebody else’, not trade unions, ‘look after’ workers.

And, No SMFS, the dumb propositions do not demand a return to closed shop trade unionism.

Cherub @2 makes excellent points: “Well-run unions are essential for a just society, sadly most are dinosaurs rife with secrecy, factionalism, bullying and incompetence. Members need to be given more of the sorts of freedom of information we have in public life before these sorts of powers are considered.”

Independent trade unions are important and we see them working at their best at a local level. They have helped a few of my mates.

The propositions of the Institute of Employment Rights, signed by big union leaders, are that trade unions become part of management. Part of a supra-management body which evaluates the merit of widget production nationally. Naturally, this is obnoxious to company managers. And workers will hopefully reject crude propositions about job value and job substitution; the IER propositions do not consider individual worth; they are about rank on a scale.

Members of Unite, Unison, GMB, NUT, PCS, CWU, UCU, RMT and ATL might wish to reflect when they next have a vote.


I note that UCU has signed up for these ideas. When Hay job evaluation was proposed for university staff, UCU opposed it on behalf of academic employees. UCU successfully argued that Hay evaluation was inappropriate for academics. But now it appears that UCU supports sectoral collective bargaining. Did anyone ask the members?

5. So Much For Subtlety

2. Cherub

We have all the woes of Thatcherism and the wasted opportunities of North Sea Oil revenues thanks to a few irresponsible union bosses in the 70s. Labour will never forget their betrayal.

Sorry but it wasn’t a few irresponsible union bosses. It was the entire Labour movement and the rest of the Left.

At the same time we have seen wages stagnate as the cost of living rises, workers’ rights eroded and much more while tax-avoiding businesses siphon our nation’s wealth overseas. Just reviewing the NMW doesn’t cut it.

British people are what? Two or three times richer than they were in 1980? Wages have not stagnated until just recently. Britain is vastly richer. And the idea that any companies are evading tax is nonsense.

Well-run unions are essential for a just society, sadly most are dinosaurs rife with secrecy, factionalism, bullying and incompetence.

No they are not. They are organisations devoted to the ripping off of the public and workers out of work. No more. They had their time. We can survive nicely without them.

Charlieman

Are you sure? The OP proposes creation of a Ministry of Labour allegedly ‘to give working people a voice’. Does that ring any bells?

Sure. Jobs for the sort of boyos who run Think Tanks like this one. They need a Ministry to provide endless funds to write working papers and to lobby for the Unions in Cabinet.

The propositions are that ‘somebody else’, not trade unions, ‘look after’ workers.

Same university-educated former student politics party hacks either way.

And, No SMFS, the dumb propositions do not demand a return to closed shop trade unionism.

Yeah they do.

Independent trade unions are important and we see them working at their best at a local level. They have helped a few of my mates.

The Cray brothers helped a lot of people too.

@SMFS

Oh no they didn’t.

Your turn.

7. So Much For Subtlety

6. Cherub

Oh no they didn’t. Your turn.

Oh yes they did. As you can read:

2) ACAS should encourage sectoral collective bargaining: Legislation should be introduced to delegate from the proposed Ministry of Labour to ACAS (or a similar body) the duty to encourage the establishment of sectoral collective bargaining;

Sectoral collective bargaining means that whatever terms and conditions the Unions force out of employers apply to all workers in that sector of the economy – they are being represented whether they want to or not.

<i.3) Employers should be encouraged to participate in collective agreements: The legislation should include measures designed to oblige all employers to participate in these arrangements, including a provision that participation is a pre-condition of the award of all public contracts;

I love the switch they do here from “encourage” to “oblige”. Again we know what they mean – all employers will be forced to recognise the Union’s agreements with other employers.

4) Sectoral bargaining should determine pay and conditions: The legislation relating to sectoral bargaining should make provision for the determination of pay and other working conditions, provide procedures for the resolution of disputes, and deal with skills, training and productivity;

So pretty much every detail of a worker’s working life will be determined by the Unions across the sector. No flexibility. No way out. A closed shop in essense.

5) Sectoral bargaining agreements should be inderogable: The legislation relating to sectoral bargaining should provide for the legalisation of sectoral agreements, so that the appropriate terms of the agreements in question become inderogable terms and conditions of all workers in the sector;

Just to put icing on the cake.

So basically it is a return to the closed shop and trade union militancy of the 1970s.

The thing is, Sooty, you don’t understand the expression ‘closed shop’.

Wikipedia helpfully gives two useful definitions: ‘A pre-entry closed shop is a form of union security agreement under which the employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed. A post-entry closed shop is an agreement requiring all employees to join the union if they are not already members.’

The Institute of Employment Rights proposes a government body in which union heads play a special role. The proposals are for a Ministry of Labour to determine (or ‘suggest’) pay and conditions via sector and a defined job role.

There is no requirement of union membership to be subservient to the Ministry of Labour. Pay and conditions would apply to all workers, irrespective of trade union membership. So the proposals have nothing to do with closed shop.

You are correct to object to the IER proposals but your arguments about ‘union power’ and ‘closed shop’ are wrong.

The proposed Ministry of Labour would diminish workers’ power, by extracting power from unions and ACAS, giving it to government. How is it that an alleged sceptic like you fails to comprehend the centralism or statism implied by the role of Ministry of Labour? Would it be easier to understand if the role was split into Ministry for Tractors, Ministry for ARM Processors etc?

Trade unionists and members should also hate these proposals. They imply that local work is insignificant and that rights are won from the top — which is contrary to the experience of most union members.

Over at Stumbling and Mumbling, Chris Dillow discussed state versus union power today: “In principle, unions are a better way of protecting workers than the state, partly because they represent “big society” virtues of self-help and community, and partly because collective bargaining can be sensitive to local idiosyncratic market forces in a way that legislation is not. But this healthy alternative is not available now.”
(http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2013/09/neoliberalisms-unintended-consequences.html)

The Institute of Employment Rights — and the union leaders who signed up to these proposals — are unlikely to provide the healthy alternative sought by Chris Dillow.

9. PottyTraining

@ post 5

Lying, misleading pile of Waffle from an ignoramus!

The elites disengaged pleb wages from productivity in the late 70′s.
Thatcher (the crony-class elites attack dog) attacked the Unions whose leaders recognised what the elites were up to!

In laymans terms – You should be on double your present wages if they had kept up with productivity gains made from late 70′s

The elites stashed all the excess wealth made since 70′s secretly in their offshore accounts!

You can see the proof ‘in plain sight’ by thinking it though, how they reward their cohorts and ‘enablers’ (offshoring banker networks + directors) paid thousands of times the lowest pleb wages!

No enforced Austerity or new rules for the theiving networks which collapsed the country and caused millions to loose their jobs!

10. PottyTraining

@ post 5

Lying, misleading pile of Waffle from an ignoramus!

The elites disengaged pleb wages from productivity in the late 70′s.
Thatcher (the crony-class elites attack dog) attacked the Unions whose leaders recognised what the elites were up to!

In laymans terms – You should be on double your present wages if they had kept up with productivity gains made from late 70′s

The elites stashed all the excess wealth made since 70′s secretly in their offshore accounts!

You can see the proof ‘in plain sight’ by thinking it though, how they reward their cohorts and ‘enablers’ (offshoring banker networks + directors) paid thousands of times the lowest pleb wages!

No enforced Austerity or new rules for the theiving networks which collapsed the country and caused millions to lose their jobs!

11. So Much For Subtlety

8. Charlieman

The thing is, Sooty, you don’t understand the expression ‘closed shop’.

The thing is I do Chaz. What they want is to force all employees to accept whatever terms and conditions the Unions deign to allow them. That is a nice way around to enforcing a closed shop.

There is no requirement of union membership to be subservient to the Ministry of Labour. Pay and conditions would apply to all workers, irrespective of trade union membership. So the proposals have nothing to do with closed shop.

They have everything to do with a closed shop. You see, we can do this all day? Would workers be forced to abide by the conditions set down by their Union – even if they were not a member? Yes they would. Thus it is a way of reimposing the closed shop.

The proposed Ministry of Labour would diminish workers’ power, by extracting power from unions and ACAS, giving it to government.

They would diminish workers power. I think I said as much. As Unions do. By taking away the right of workers to choose their own conditions of employment. But it would hardly take it from Unions as the Ministry of Labour is intended to be the Unionists-in-residence within the government. It would be the TUC in suits. And notice their aim for the MoL is for them to lobby the government on behalf of Unions. They do not see the government as a monolith and they see the MoL as being their Trojan Horse.

How is it that an alleged sceptic like you fails to comprehend the centralism or statism implied by the role of Ministry of Labour?

I am not sure I have ever alleged I am a skeptic but no matter. The centralism is what I am complaining about.

“In principle, unions are a better way of protecting workers than the state, partly because they represent “big society” virtues of self-help and community, and partly because collective bargaining can be sensitive to local idiosyncratic market forces in a way that legislation is not. But this healthy alternative is not available now.”

Then Chris should appreciate no Union at all because that is even more sensitive to local indiodyncratic market forces.

But I agree this system would be incredibily centralised. Essentially it would do for the rest of British industry what centralised wage fixing has done for teaching or the NHS.

12. PottyTraining

By the way folks

I forgot to mention how they hid your salary/wage theft/depreciation!

The Global elite Cabals did it by conning you with cheap Chinese/foreign tat imports!

@11. So Much For Subtlety: “They have everything to do with a closed shop. You see, we can do this all day?”

Do we have to? I need to polish my patent Doc Marten boots.

“Would workers be forced to abide by the conditions set down by their Union – even if they were not a member? Yes they would. Thus it is a way of reimposing the closed shop.”

As we have previously established, Ministry of Labour would determine wage and conditions of work. Union leaders might presume that they were part of a deal, perhaps initially, and then workers and unions would lose power.

And as I have mentioned previously, this is not an example of ‘closed shop’.

You, Sooty, persist when your argument has been lost. I do not know how the Mary Celeste failed; I suspect you would be yacking on the boat about behalf of nothing and about the imponderable. Part of the problem.

Shift yourself, Sooty. The Institute of Employment Rights proposes collectivization of workers. That has bugger all to do with anything.

14. So Much For Subtlety

13. Charlieman

Do we have to? I need to polish my patent Doc Marten boots.

Afraid so.

As we have previously established, Ministry of Labour would determine wage and conditions of work. Union leaders might presume that they were part of a deal, perhaps initially, and then workers and unions would lose power.

We are agreed the workers would lose power. But of course the author himself sees the MoL as a vehicle for the Unions so it is a perfectly reasonable assumption. The Union leadership would in fact be imposing terms and conditions on everyone. That is the point of his proposal. Now perhaps you can think of some other way the MoL might work, but that is not the way he was thinking of it working. It is not what he wants. What he wants is for the Union movement to determine pay and conditions for all British workers.

And as I have mentioned previously, this is not an example of ‘closed shop’.

And as I have pointed out previously, yes it is. It may not be the classical closed shop, but it is a very inventive away of reimposing it on British workers. Would anyone be able to work in a sector for wages other than those set by the Union? No. Closed shop.

You, Sooty, persist when your argument has been lost.

I admire those who hold to failed arguments long after they have been passed by, but of course I am not in that position here. As can be seen by your gradual retreat.

1) A Ministry of Labour – Unnecessary and very expensive. Already have unions. This will just double over the work.

2) ACAS – ACAS is for dispute resolution on an impartial basis. Not a partisan organisation that will take sides. It can never operate in that position.

3) A lot of words saying nothing. Please clarify.

4) Sectoral bargaining should determine pay and conditions – Umm, no. I don’t think anyone wants a return to the 70′s.

5) Sectoral bargaining agreements should be inderogable – totally impractical and unworkable. Diktat from the top and will squash labour markets reducing the number of jobs.

6) CAC should resolve disputes about sectoral boundaries – More words, even less meaning. What do you mean ‘sectoral boundaries’. Must define.

7) The new scheme should be implemented gradually and flexibly – That’s not what your suggestions seem to ask for.

8) Trade unions should be recognised where 10% of the workforce are members – BS. If a trade union cannot even attract decent membership numbers there is no reason why they should be recognised.

9) Every trade union should have the right to bargain on behalf of its members – bit confused by your thinking, I think you suggest an opt-out system rather than opt-in. Which would require overturning fundamentals of English law that are several hundred years old.

10) Every worker should have the right to be represented by their trade union – they already do.

I’m in agreement with @1. So Much for Subtlety. This will do almost nothing except give unions the ability to spend more of their members money and seize more power.


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