Scandal-hit government steps up attack on unions

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IN her speech to the annual Tolpuddle Martyr’s rally held last Sunday, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady lambasted the coalition government over the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill being pushed through parliament in the wake of the outrage at the activities of David Cameron’s advisor, Lynton Crosb

Crosby, who runs a lobbying company called Crosby Textor, has been at the centre of a scandal since Cameron performed an abrupt U-turn over the question of forcing tobacco companies to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes – a move that was fiercely opposed by the tobacco industry.

Crosby, whose firm has been closely associated with the industry and lobbied on its behalf, was brought in by Cameron last November as the Tories’ election strategist for the 2015 general election, and the accusation was that it was his influence that lay behind the abrupt dropping of plain packaging.

This scandal over the influence of a paid industry lobbyist over Cameron and the Tories has been intensified this week with the revelation that Crosby’s company was also heavily involved in advising private healthcare companies on strategies for pushing through privatisation of the NHS.

Just months before the Health and Social Care Bill was due to receive its second reading in the House of Commons, Crosby Textor carried out work for H5 Private Healthcare Alliance – a UK-based lobby group representing the five largest private hospital groups in the UK, on how to push through NHS privatisation.

This unfolding scandal of highly paid lobbyists sitting right at the heart of the coalition government and dictating policies that directly reflect the interests of the tobacco industry and health privateers has forced Cameron to put up the smokescreen of a bill to regulate lobbyists.

So shot full of holes is this transparency bill that one campaigning group has estimated that 80% of the £2billion lobbying industry will not be covered.

But the real thrust of this legislation is not the lobbying industry but the trade unions as O’Grady pointed out on Sunday.

Tacked onto the proposed legislation is a whole new set of laws regulating the unions, notably a raft of rules requiring unions to be ‘audited’ every year by an independent body as to how up-to-date their membership records are, with exact details on work location and detailed plans on how the union will communicate with each one of them.

Given that members are constantly being moved, redeployed or sacked, the government is presenting the unions with an impossible task.

The intention behind this is to provide the basis for a legal challenge to any decision made by the union on behalf of its members.

Strike ballots and political donations will all be ruled illegal for even the most minor infringement of these rules while the billion pound lobbying industry can carry on merrily writing government policies for the enrichment of the capitalist class.

What was beyond irony, however, was O’Grady denouncing this legislation as a continuation of the anti-union laws that were used in the 19th century to jail and deport workers fighting to form trade unions at a time when the current leadership of the trade unions are showing themselves to be totally cowed by these laws, refusing to lead any strikes that Tory courts would declare illegal.

These leaders are today totally incapable of defending anything.

The response of workers to this new legislation that protects the interests of the lobbyists and seeks to make unions illegal once again must be to demand that the TUC breaks the anti-union laws decisively by calling an all-out general strike to bring down the government and replace it with a workers’ government.

If these leaders continue to refuse to carry out such action which they are forever ‘discussing’, they must be removed and replaced at once!

This is the only fitting memorial to the six Tolpuddle workers and all the working class fighters who faced death and imprisonment to build the trade unions.