Poverty, Inequality, Greedy Fat Cats.Why We Still Need Strong Unions

By Tuc, John Monks General Secretary Of | Sunday Mirror (London, England), September 13, 1998 | Go to article overview

Poverty, Inequality, Greedy Fat Cats.Why We Still Need Strong Unions


Tuc, John Monks General Secretary Of, Sunday Mirror (London, England)


IF TRADE unions did not exist today, someone would have to invent them.

Without unions Britain would be an even more unfair and unequal society than it is already. The rich would be even richer and the poor even poorer.

We would be a less successful economy, falling even further behind our rivals in this increasingly competitive world.

We can see what has gone wrong in Russia. Untamed capitalism has been let rip.

Ordinary people have been given no protection. A totally free market reigns. Markets unleash powerful forces and much energy, but unless they are made to serve the common good, they will sweep the weak and vulnerable before them. Left unchecked they cause the kind of collapse we see in Russia today.

Unions are one of the great civilising influences in any economy. And that is still our mission in Britain today.

Union campaigning has brought about the minimum wage. For the first time, poverty pay and rank exploitation will be illegal.

Union efforts have brought about the Working Time Directive. At the end of the month everyone in Britain will have rights to rest breaks, holidays and - although the small print needs watching - most will have protection against working more than 48 hours a week.

Our efforts have secured a radical programme of government pledges for people at work in the Fairness at Work White Paper.

It will be harder for bosses to sack people unfairly. People in trouble, or with a grievance, will be able to call on a union official to help them with their employer. There are new rights for parents, both mothers and fathers, to have time off to care for sick children.

When a majority of workers have union cards, or more than 40 per cent vote for a union in a ballot, then employers will have to recognise a union.

Bad bosses say that unions get in the way and that new rights for employees hold their business back.

This is rubbish. Firms need loyalty and commitment from their staff. They will not win this by bullying and exploitation.

The modern way is partnership, and today's trade unions recognise their responsibilities to contribute to company success. Without this there will be no job security, poor pay and worse conditions. But our civilising mission still has a long way to go.

After the 18 Tory years the United Nations, in a shocking report last week, said Britain was now one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the developed West. …

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