STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith on Coalition Government ‘Trade Union Inquiry’

November 19th 2013

In a speech to be delivered at the 6th Annual Scottish Union Learning Conference at 10.50am, STUC General Secretary Grahame Smith will speak of the enormous positive contribution made by trade union learning reps to the success of businesses and the economy and criticise the UK Coalition Government’s approach to industrial relations.

Grahame Smith will say:

“You may have noticed that at the weekend the UK Coalition Government announced that it was launching an Inquiry into so called harassment and intimidation in industrial disputes.

Such an inquiry is deeply troubling – not because of what it might reveal but about the completely distorted impression it gives about the nature of industrial relations in the UK today – and specifically here in Scotland given that what happened recently at Grangemouth is being touted as the reason for it.

The picture being painted of industrial relations in the UK bears no relation to the reality.

Make no mistake, this Inquiry is nothing more than a political stunt designed for party advantage with the outcome of the next UK General election in mind.
If it is genuinely independent - it will reveal nothing in our practices for us to be concerned about.

It is those employers that use blacklisting and union busting tactics that should be concerned. It is their practices that are bullying and intimidatory – and that make leverage campaigns necessary.

Two things about this Inquiry bother me.

First, I have little faith that the Inquiry will be genuinely independent. Its terms of reference and membership have been determined by those hostile to unions and whose agenda is to lay the ground for a future round of anti-union legislation aimed at weakening union organisation and collective bargaining and therefore workplace democracy. Second, suggesting that the UK has an industrial relations problem has the potential to damage our economy by scaring away inward investment.

This inquiry might be a political sham but it could be a political sham with real consequences for investment and jobs.

In reality, modern, every day, bread and butter trade unionism is what we are discussing today. It is union learning. It is the work unions do in workplaces across the country, work that gives workers new opportunities to expand their knowledge and acquire new skills that enriches their personal lives, opens up new possibilities for career progression and makes the organisations they work for more productive and more successful.

An Inquiry into how more successful our economy is because of the work of unions and how more successful it could be workers were represented in many more workplaces would be of considerably more value.”


For further details: Dave Moxham 0141 337 8100

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