new Employment Bill is winding its way through Parliament. Its provisions
continue the policy of New Labour antagonism towards trade unions, while the
government grovels to big business. Blair boasted that trade union rights in
Britain remained the most restrictive in Europe. But why on earth does Gordon
Brown feel the need to water down the Bill so as to defend fascists’ rights?
2002 ASLEF tried to expel a BNP member. It took a five year battle, going up
all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, to establish that trade
unions, like religious groups and political parties, had the right to include
only those who shared their beliefs and ideology as members. So we don’t have
to put up with fascists in our ranks.
ECHR was quite clear. “Unions must remain free to decide, in accordance with
union rules, questions concerning the admission to and expulsion from the
union.” Since the Human Rights Act was passed into law ten years ago,
judgements of the ECHR have the force of law in this country. So why is the
government dragging its feet in implementing the law? What’s the problem?
Bill actually uses weasel words so that, “It has fallen well short of what was
required. Loose wording and additional provisions have meant that the bill, if
enacted into law, would leave the unions in a worse legal position than
before,” according to a letter sent to the press by leaders of Britain’s most
important trade unions.
Tony Lloyd chair of the TU Group of Labour MPs said the Lords
amendment offered "too much protection" to the individual at the
expense of the rights of the unions.
"An individual fascist member who doesn’t want to be a
member of the same union as black, Jewish or Asian colleagues, his or her
interests are put ahead of those colleagues to not want to be a member of a
trade union with a fascist involved. That is an important freedom that we are
The government’s formulation will allow fascists to milk
the funds of our trade unions for their own murky political purposes with
malicious litigation. Lloyd claimed that the BNP in its magazine was telling
their members to join a union so they could reveal themselves before seeking a
"five-figure payout" in compensation.
There were other issues in the Bill where honest
pro-working class Labour MPs could draw a line in the sand between themselves
and the government and the unthinking cattle and payroll vote in the
Parliamentary Labour Party, together with their co-thinkers in the Tory Party.
John McDonnell hailed one such vote on November 4th as, “A huge
rebellion in a by-election week and sends out the clearest possible signal to
the government that we are not doing enough on trade union rights."
The amendment on the right to expel fascists was
not put to the vote. It is not too late to change the Bill. Write to your MP
and let him know what you think. Ask at your trade union branch what the
sponsored Labour MPs are up to and how we can put the pressure on. Defend the
principle that the trade unions are core organisations of the working class.
There is no place in them for known enemies of the labour movement.