4 September 2007
Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, discusses the unions’ strained relations with the Labour government over its anti-union policies, the prospects of a union rebellion and strike action, and arguments in favour of economic democracy and employee empowerment in the workplace, in this edition of Talking With Tatchell.
The government has acted “ruthlessly” and made a “major, major mistake” by imposing a below-inflation wage increase on public sector workers, according to Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
He makes this criticism in an exclusive TV interview – Labour v the Unions? – aired tonight, on the eve of next week’s TUC conference in Brighton.
Mr Barber is interviewed by human rights campaigner, trade union member and Green Party parliamentary candidate, Peter Tatchell.
Acknowledging the strained relations between the government and the trade unions, Mr Barber says of the latest government-imposed pay restraint: “I just don’t think that’s justified.”
He condemns the government’s failure to listen to the independent pay review bodies and to the trade unions as “unacceptable,” especially when city fat cats are scooping billions in bonuses.
Criticising the widening gap between the very rich and middle and lower income earners, Mr Barber says: “I don’t think that’s healthy in a democracy.”
He laments the government’s opt out from employee protection under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, saying it sends a “very, very negative signal.” He urges the government to “think again.”
Responding to Peter Tatchell’s suggestion that trade unions should insist on economic democracy and worker participation in decision-making, Mr Barber says the TUC is “pressing that issue and that cause…on this issue – genuine opportunities for workforce involvement – we need a much livelier debate about that than perhaps we’ve had for some time”.
While noting Gordon Brown’s commitment to a government of all the talents, Mr Barber regrets that these talents include the former CBI union-basher, Sir Digby Jones, but not a single trade union leader.
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