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

Friday, 26 October 2012

CBI calls for a 21st Century Combination Act

The absence of outrage at this week’s proposals from Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General, for new laws to create ‘more flexible, individualised relationships between employees and employers’ speaks volumes about the deadening effects of decades long repression of trade unionism in the UK. Bentley has launched an attack on collective trade union rights.

His aim is to place collective bargaining and collective representation in a similar legal straightjacket to that which renders industrial action ineffectual. 200 years ago similar arrangements existed in English legislation called The Combination Act (or more fully ‘An Act to prevent Unlawful Combinations of Workmen’) – how else to describe the CBI proposal to allow employers to offer pay settlements directly to their employees, rather than having to go through union representatives, even where unions are recognised and a lawful dispute exists?

An extract from The Combination Act 1799:

‘Every ... workman ... who shall at any time after the passing of this Act enter into any combination to obtain an advance of wages, or to lessen or alter the hours or duration of the time of working, or to decrease the quantity of work, or for any other purpose contrary to this Act, or who shall, by giving money, or by persuasion, solicitation or intimidation, or any other means, wilfully and maliciously endeavour to prevent any unhired or unemployed journeyman or workman, or other person, in any manufacture, trade or business, or any other person wanting employment in such manufacture, trade or business, from hiring himself to any manufacturer or tradesman, or person conducting any manufacture, trade or business, or who shall, for the purpose of obtaining an advance of wages, or for any other purpose contrary to the provisions of this Act, wilfully and maliciously decoy, persuade, solicit, intimidate, influence or prevail, or attempt or endeavour to prevail, on any journeyman or workman, or other person hired or employed, or to be hired or employed in any such manufacture, trade or business, to quit or leave his work, service or employment, or who shall wilfully and maliciously hinder or prevent any manufacturer or tradesman, or other person, from employing in his or her manufacture, trade or business, such journeymen, workmen and other persons as he or she shall think proper, or who, being hired or employed, shall, without any just or reasonable cause, refuse to work with any other journeyman or workman employed or hired to work therein, and who shall be lawfully convicted of any of the said offences, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace for the county ... .or place where such offence shall be committed, within 3 calendar months ... shall, by order of such justices, be committed to ... gaol for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months; or otherwise be committed to some House of Correction ... for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.