By Mark Sandell
Alan Johnson, the New Labour Minister for Employment Relations, used to be general secretary of the post and telecom union CWU. Johnson left the CWU after failing to sell Royal Mail bosses' agenda to his members. He was almost universally hated by the union's members by then. Labour's leadership paid him back for holding off a major national dispute before the 1997 General Election by imposing him as a candidate in Hull weeks before polling day.
This piece of scum is the man Blair has chosen to deal with the unions. He seems to relish the chance to get his own back on workers, telling the unions that they are crazy if they think anti-union laws will be scraped.
The Employment Relations Act White Paper was seen by many union leaders as a chance for New Labour to do a few tiny favours for the unions. The 1999 Employment Relations Act had left the vast majority of Thatcher's anti-union laws in place; making effective trade unionism barely legal by legally shackling workers and unions. What the 1999 Act did do was to bring in some European legislation on meagre family friendly policies and holidays and establish certain rights for union recognition and representation for union members.
Yet even these changes were feeble and have been abused by bosses. The right to union recognition is hide bound by elaborate procedures with high hurdles and governed by the toothless CAC that employers can ignore. The right to union recognition is denied to workers in firms with less those 21 employees, yet small firms are 85 % of British employers. Protection for strikers from unfair dismissal is limited to the first eight weeks of a dispute, which means the Friction Dynamics workers could be sacked after six weeks of being locked out as the result of a legally balloted dispute.
The White Paper will not deal with any of these faults with the 1999 Act. CBI lobbying could still result in new attacks being added to the Bill but there is nothing on offer to the unions or workers.
There is no option of waiting for even tiny favours from this bosses' government. The unions must take up a serious mass campaign to scrap all the anti-union laws and replace them with a charter of workers' rights.