The Tories want to ban strikes without 50% turnout, yet they accuse others of class war

If you are simultaneously bashing the unions and slashing welfare, you're also not in the best position to accuse others of conducting class war.

If you are simultaneously bashing the unions and slashing welfare, you’re not in the best position to accuse others of conducting class war

On the Andrew Marr show this morning David Cameron confirmed that under a majority Conservative government a turnout threshold would be introduced for strike action. The PM said:

“I think in these essential services, like the London Underground, the pain caused to people trying to get to work and trying to help their families by these strikes, which are often supported by a relatively small percentage…I think it’s hugely damaging and so I think the time has come for setting thresholds in strike ballots in essential services. It’s not something I can achieve in a coalition government. It’s something that will be in our manifesto.”

The idea of 50 per cent turnout threshold is something which has previously been championed by London Mayor Boris Johnson. It also fits with the theme of recent Tory attacks on Ed Miliband for being “in the pocket” of the trade unions.

Indeed, for someone who was once believed by many to be a ‘no-content’ Conservative (for a long time it was said that Cameron didn’t believe in anything), proposals to introduce thresholds for industrial action are profoundly ideological. It’s also ironic that, during a week when the Tories have accused Labour of “class war”, they are indulging in pointless union-bashing in order to cheer up their grassroots supporters.

And that’s really what this proposal is about: appeasing right-wing Tories who may be attracted to UKIP.

It’s certainly hard to see any practical reason why Britain urgently needs new strike turnout threshold rules. Far fewer days are lost to industrial action in Britain today than in the past. The number of working days lost to industrial action hit an all-time-low in 2012, with just 250,300 days lost. This compares to an average of 12.9m working days a year lost in the 1970s.

The odds are also already stacked against trade unions, with many ballots invalidated by bureaucratic legal rulings even after a successful ballot. Since 1980 there has been the following blitz of legislation to curb strikes:

  • the 1980 Employment Act;
  • the 1982 Employment Act;
  • the 1984 Trade Union Act;
  • the 1988 Employment Act;
  • the 1989 Employment Act;
  • the 1990 Employment Act;
  • the 1993 Employment Act.

As much as the recent tube strikes were an inconvenience to London’s commuters, the biggest issues facing ordinary people in Britain today are stagnant pay and inequality between the ‘squeezed middle’ and the so-called ‘1 per cent’. Wages are still lagging behind inflation for those who don’t receive bonuses, and notwithstanding a very slight narrowing of the gap between the rich and the poor during the downturn, the share of total UK income going to the richest 1 per cent increased from 6 per cent in 1979 to 14 per cent today.

These developments are arguably attributable to the declining power of the trade unions, and for obvious reasons: as union membership has fallen, bosses have had a much stronger hand when it has come to squeezing the pay of their employees and awarding themselves eye-watering sums in remuneration. No, not all employers are like that; but nor are all trade unionists communist troublemakers intent on walking out at the first opportunity. In fact, I’ve never met a trade unionist who actually enjoys going on strike and losing a day or more in pay.

Even Ukippers should welcome more active trade unions if they really care about British workers being undercut by migrants from Eastern Europe. The best way to ensure that migrant workers are paid properly is, after all, to get them unionised so that, alongside their British counterparts, they can push their employer for better pay and working conditions.

Making it more difficult to strike will do nothing to tackle the real issues facing British families, and as with so many policies emanating from Downing Street these days, this is yet another sop to a faction of the Tory party that is increasingly charmed by Ukip. If you are simultaneously bashing the unions and slashing welfare, you’re also not in the best position to accuse others of conducting class war.

James Bloodworth is the editor of Left Foot Forward

54 Responses to “The Tories want to ban strikes without 50% turnout, yet they accuse others of class war”

  1. PoundInYourPocket

    Well, at least I think we are agreed that the present system doesn’t work. By the way I do like chocolate and also enjoy mexican music and resteraunts which wouldn’t be the same with yorkshire waiters and musicians. (I know I’ve heard them). It’s not just the trade and the foreign produce but the people who are an asset to the UK, making the country more diverse.
    As for the horrors of the in-bred english I was referring to the english mono-culture rather than actual inbreeding. It seems that your policy is to allow anyone to settle in the UK providing they can pay there way , which few will be able to. For non-EU countries I’d grant access primarily on a skills / assset points basis similar to Australia & NZ. For the EU I’d have more relaxed access for specified countries with similar standards of development (EU13) and a more restrictive policy for the EU8 to avoid excessive migration and wage deflation. The unmanaged EU immigration policy across countries of vastly different development standards was ideological idiocy from the start. Just like the Euro and the Comission etc etc.

  2. LB

    but the people who are an asset to the UK,

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    How does paying £1.56 to get tens of thousands of pounds of other people’s money make you an asset? You’ve avoided that question and I’m not surprised. You’ve no answer to that con.

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    It seems that your policy is to allow anyone to settle in the UK providing they can pay there way , which few will be able to.

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    I am. So what’s wrong with that? If you want people who don’t pay their way, there’s a solution. You guarantee to make up the difference. I doubt you would. The reason being you would rather make other people poorer. Screw the poor, let them pay. I want a cheap mexican.

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    For non-EU countries I’d grant access primarily on a skills / assset points basis similar to Australia & NZ.

    ==============

    Ah, a civil servant. You want to make a living operating the scheme. A points based scheme doesn’t mean people won’t be forced to pay for migrants. Tax based is cheap and ensures that.

    Put the EU and the rest of the world on an identical footing. Black or white, red or green, it doesn’t matter. You can come, if you pay your way. If you don’t., or you break the law, bye bye.

    Of course, you can always sponsor a migrant. What’s wrong with that?

  3. Sun

    These are are a good start. However economies, while important, are not everything. There are bigger issues like preservation of a people, culture, etc over thousands of years. Even crime and disease take precedence imo.

    1. Will the racial/ethnic makeup that has been evolving for thousands of years be preserved. Meaning that the person comes from the same racial background (this has been going on in the UK up the 20th century…yes even when fighting the Nazis).
    2. Is the migrant carrying disease that are easily quarantined? Disease that detrimental to the population causing infection and spreading through entire population (esp the youth). Raising cost of healthcare. Etc.
    3. Letting in violent criminals, such as murderers rapist, etc.
    4. Letting in radical activist to seek to subvert the country.
    5. The willingness to integrate and learn the native tongue and culture (based upon some biological and cultural similarities). Such unacceptable cultural norms are left behind.
    6. Does the migrant have a job that that could be utilized in a deficient a area/region?

  4. LB

    I think you will find that if you only allow migrants who pay more than the average government spend in tax (per head), then you won’t get many of the criminal migrants.

    My brother’s school brought an illegal migrant into the UK the other day.

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