Does Theresa May’s authoritarian attack on the non-TUC Police Federation last week herald an intensification of the Tories’ war on trade unions? The Guardian appears to think so - ‘it's a fair bet that, if they are in power again after next May's general election, they will go after other public sector unions, the Prison Officers Association, Napo, and the Fire Brigades Union; before long even Unison and the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) could be under siege.’
The Guardian article misses the point that the anti union laws already impose restrictive ‘democratic’ and governance structures on independent trade unions in the UK. There is not much room, if any, for the legal straitjacket on union rule books to be tightened. Undoubtedly an incoming Tory Government will further restrict the right to strike by imposing ballot thresholds, further attack DOCAS provisions in the public sector (already happening in some civil service departments) and impose political fund opt ins (a principled conceded by Labour following the Collins review). But there is an important difference between the Police Federation and other trade unions. The former is not an independent trade union but an emanation of the state - literally a statutory staff association. It does not have collective bargaining rights and its members do not have the right to strike.
Already there are siren voices arguing that the subordination of police officers to the ‘public interest’ is a model for other public service trade unions. The trade union movement must resist any attempts by the Conservative Party or anyone else to interfere with the aims and objectives of our unions.