UK government echoes Pinochet in trade union crackdown
The UK government crackdown on trade union rights is reminiscent of former Chilean dictator Augustus Pinochet and an attack on democracy itself, UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings has said.
The far-reaching reforms will make legal strikes virtually impossible by imposing a minimum 50% turnout - with public sector strikes needing the backing of at least 40% of workers eligible to vote.
The laws would also force unions to give employers 14 days of notice of impending industrial action and allow them to bring in agency staff to cover for striking workers.
“I recently met the Chilean labour minister who told me that, under its own labour reforms, Chile will be removing striker replacement rules from the statute book because they were an “unfortunate legacy” of Pinochet,” Jennings said. “Why is the Conservative Party intent on following the example of a man like Pinochet?”
“This is the worst attack on trade unions since the days of a Thatcher government and the UNI Global Union family of 20 million workers stands united with our UK members in opposing these draconian measures.”
According to the British TUC, the proposals will make getting a much-needed pay rise, stopping job losses or negotiating better conditions at work much more difficult. They’ll make it harder for unions to do their day-to-day job of dealing with problems in the workplace before they escalate into disputes.
“The Bill is a modern day masterclass in punishing people for daring to stand up for their rights,” said TUC General Secretary Francis O’ Grady.
“This government is determined to strip workers of power at the negotiating table and give bosses the upper hand during disputes. Even when ballots succeed in meeting the new thresholds, employers will soon be able to bring in agency staff to break strikes.”
We have a new global paradox. Across the world, the right to organise, the right to negotiate and the right to strike are being deprived to workers yet the IMF finds that the fall in unionisation in advanced economies and its impact on workers’ negotiation power is a key contributor to the rise of economic inequality.
Studies suggest that about one-fifth of the increase in economic inequality in America, for example, is the result of the decline in unions’ negotiating power.
“To understand rising inequality, you have to understand the coordinated and resourced campaign against the labour movement, which has left middle class wages stagnating for decades.” Jennings said.
“While the Conservative Party would have you believe that unions hold back economic growth, the reality is precisely the opposite. Working people need money in their pocket to fuel the economy.”
“For the first time in history the majority of people living in poverty in the UK are in work. This is the legacy of the Tories’ previous attacks on trade unions. I hate to think want will happen next.”
The Trade Union Bill will be presented to the UK House of Commons on Wednesday and represents the worst crackdown on trade union rights in 30 years.