Rights At Work

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2011 National Delegate Conference
18 February 2011

Conference notes that in 2011 the trade union movement is facing the biggest challenges for a generation in the form of budget cuts and restrictions on our ability to bargain and organise. Trade union membership is about six million workers and collective bargaining covers 35% of the labour force.

Conference records with anger that the Conservatives passed seven main pieces of legislation between 1979 and 1997, slicing away at trade union rights and freedoms, many in breach of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. Furthermore ILO convention 94 on fair wages was denounced in the 1980s that had previously set wage levels based on collective agreements for public contracts.

Conference has previously noted some gains in individual employment rights since 1997 but little in the way of improvement in collective legal rights, aside from the statutory recognition procedure. That is why Conference has supported the Trade Union Freedom Bill in the past and will do so in the future. Conference notes the sabre rattling statements of Cameron and Osborne that trade unions are the forces of stagnation and the implicit threats to legislate to prevent industrial action in the public sector

Conference is alarmed at the ease at which employers have obtained injunctions to prevent industrial action in the disputes at British Airways, the rail industry and is further alarmed that this trend of threatened and successful injunctions has continued in other areas and may spread to UNISON ballots.

Conference further notes that the cuts in public services across our workplaces is an implicit attack on facility time, with many activists facing unmanageable workloads and persistent refusal by managers to give time off for trade union duties.

Finally, Conference will oppose vigorously any attempt to restrict employment rights through increasing from one year to two years the qualifying employment to claim unfair dismissal, exempting small businesses from employment regulations and introducing up front Tribunal fees. The small number of applicants winning their cases at Employment Tribunal is an indication of the already restrictive nature of our employment law and not a sign of vexatious cases, as claimed by Government ministers.

Conference therefore calls on the National Executive Council to:

1)promote the value of collective bargaining in ensuring fairness, reducing inequality and tackling poverty;

2)continue to support the Trade Union Freedom Bill;

3)continue to work with the Institute of Employment Rights and the United Campaign to Repeal the Anti-trade union laws;

4)campaign for greater legal protection for union activists to carry out trade union duties;

5)raise awareness of the Equality Act and the implementation of the EU agency workers directive;

6)campaign with the TUC against any government attempts to cut our employment rights, or trade union activity particularly industrial action;

7)work with the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) and ETUC to defeat the current EU Commission attempts to weaken the working time directive, and any other anti-trade union measures from the European Union.