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Tory plan to make strikes near impossible betrays their ambition for a bosses’ Britain

article-1259058-08CBAADF000005DC-36_634x458-4The core issue in industrial relations is the balance of power between employers and workers. The Tories insist that in the 1970s it shifted too far in the interests of labour, and the Left will insist that in the last 3 decades it has shifted too far – far too far – in the interests of capital. Cameron now wants to take it even further in the interests of capital.

Last week’s strike by nearly a million public sector workers last week, protesting at low pay and a continuing real terms wage freeze, has been seized on by the Tories to push forward an obviously long-prepared plan to virtually eliminate strikes altogether. The new restrictions proposed – a 50% turnout threshold of all those entitled to vote, the code of practice on picketing to be legally binding, a requirement on unions to vote on each aspect of a dispute, and a 3-month time limit on the duration of a strike mandate – are designed to grant almost unlimited power to corporate interests.

The essence of this approach is that any strikes by any workers at any time can be construed as inappropriate and wrong. What is most notable about Cameron’s attitude is its total indifference to the causes of strikes. The hidden assumption is that it’s all the fault of the strikers – as though protesting against a near-10% fall in public sector wages over the last 5 years when over the same period the richest 1,000 persons in the UK have doubled thir wealth to half a trillion pounds, is somehow unreasonable and should be punished. If employers, taking the cue from government, have driven their employees into a state of despair and near-destitution within a profoundly unjust economy, can workers be blamed for strking when there is no other effective option open to them?

What is missing too from Cameron’s utterly lop-sided approach are policies to improve the institutional arrangements aimed to help both sides reach a compromise before striking becomes inevitable. But just as the Tories’ economic objective is not, except coincidentally, to eliminate the deficit so much as to shrink the State and hobble the public sector, so their industrial relations objective is not to achieve a fair balance of power in the workplace so much as to neutralise the unions as an effective force altogether. That is not of course a sustainable policy since it is bound sooner or later to lead to an explosion, but these Tories are clearly determined to push suppression of the unions to the ultimate limit.

There is one other aspect of this whole stinking affair which is not so much ironic as scandalous. The unions are not allowed to strike, but capital can go on strike as much as it likes with impunity. It has hardly been remarked on anywhere that there is currently, and has been for the last 4 years, an investors’ strike. The FTSE-100 companies are sitting on gigantic cash stockpiles of some £650 billions, but not investing it – business investment levels are still 20% below pre-crash levels. That tells you all you need to know about the nature of capitalism.


  1. Robert says:

    Lets see what Miliband comes out with so far he has backed the cuts and the wage caps and the deficit reduction plan of the Tories and I suspect After Falkirk we will see Miliband voice saying we agree with the Tories strikes are nasty naughty and we must back the Tories, as we go into a coalition with them.
    Remember that One Nation labour today is getting close to Progress then it is a labour party when Progress says jump Miliband jumps as many times as they say.

    Labour to day tells us old labour is dead New labour is dead nobody believes that one, but Progress is alive and well.

    We all saw Miliband the poor thing doing Progress bid in the issue with the Unions, then somebody said what about the £28 million for the next election ED.

    If the Tories do attack the Union well sh*t happens,but would labour they remove it if they got in answer two letters NO.

    Cameron Miliband Osborne and Ball’s all of them are the same none of them have a mind of their own they are all controlled.

  2. Glen Shakespeare says:

    Ed Miliband has made it perfectly clear he will stick to Tory spending targets by investment in economic growth and the introduction of the living wage. This will vastly reduce the benefits bill whereas under the Tories the benefits bill is actually rising. Subsidising greedy employers unwilling to pay their employees a wage they can actually survive on. I get disappointex when I keep seeing so called Labour supporters twisting the truth to criticise sensible policies. In case you hax forgotten in 97 the same was achieved and the NHS was rescued from certain demise with massive investment without increasing overall spending.

    1. Robert says:

      ED Miliband stated he would bringing in the living wage six months ago, he has now changed this to increasing the min wage the reason was he did not think business liked the idea of the living wage, so it’s been dropped.

      Now we are seeing labour and the Tories with the Liberals both agreeing on the min wage the battle ground will be which one will give the extra penny.

      The living wage has been dropped by Labour until such time as Business is ready and then labour will try and help, this is for out side of London as Ed intends to try with the help of big business to offer tax breaks for the living wage in London.

      Ed statement two weeks ago stated the Living wage may take four or five years before they can look at it again.

      Now then listen look and understand, Labour party policy after the meeting this week end is to increase the Min wage until suck time that the recovery is able to pay a living wage, and then labour will help those firms able to pay it ..

      We do not need to make it up mate Labour does that well enough.

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