British unions aren’t too powerful – they’re too weak, say industrial relations academics, condemning the government’s Trade Union Bill as “the fiercest attack on workers’ rights since the Combination Acts of the early 19th century”.
UNISON has welcomed the public letter signed by more than 100 academics who specialise in industrial relations.
They call the government’s rationale for its bill “perverse”, adding that unions are an important voice for workers, protecting their terms and conditions, contributing to innovation and workplace performance and helping workers improve their skills.
Unions are “a countervailing force against the excesses of employer power”, adds the letter, published by the British Universities Industrial Relations Association.
But the bill will undermine their collective bargaining power, it says, “and will feed into the labour market by increasing endemic low-pay and insecure terms and conditions of employment among non-unionised workers”.
Association president and Leeds University business school professor Mark Stuart, one of the letter’s signatories, said: “Instead of attacking trade unions in this way, the government should be looking more seriously at how to engage and involve the British workforce and its representatives in rebuilding the UK economy and raising productivity through fairer and more supportive rights for workers.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said the union “welcomes the academics’ contribution as a voice of sanity and common sense”.