UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

That old chesnut again - 'is time up for the unions?'‏

Lord Melvyn Bragg guests as editor in the latest edition of New Statesman. It is perhaps fitting that the writer of historical fiction should commission two political relics to discuss the question ‘is time up for the unions?  http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2010/10/trade-unions-british-britain

Madson Pirie and Roy Hattersley have the distinction of coming from the right of both sides of the political spectrum – although to be fair to Hattersley, he has been known to say that he merely stood still as New Labour moved (to his) right.

Predictably Pirie, a doyen of the pro market Adam Smith institute, dismisses unions past and present ‘it is easy to conclude, looking over the history of the trade union movement, that it has done more harm than good to Britain. Union militancy contributes to overseas buyers placing orders in places with more reliable delivery dates. Unionised working practices may have priced some British goods out of world markets’.

Lord Hattersley, former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, is more positive about the prospects for unions ‘the world is changing and the trade union movement must and will change with it’. Hattersley cautions against adventurism where industrial action is concerned and his wisest advice is for unions to guard against sectionalism ‘unless the unions and their members act on the principle that we are "members one of another", their future will be in doubt. For they are, and have always been, more than organisations for securing an annual pay increase. British trade unions possess a clear view of the sort of society that they want to build. Neither anger nor frustration should provoke them into forgetting that long-term goal.’