Ed Miliband has been getting a battering today (Tuesday 13 Sept) and there is no doubt Trade Unions want more influence in the Labour Party. With Trade Unions providing more than 80% of Labour Party funding and Ed Miliband himself elected leader on a pro-union stance, the side he is going to have to be on (of the options given by Bob Crow) is the Trade Union side.
But such political control is disappointing for those of us who see Trade Unions as organisations to represent employees. It also creates unwarranted antipathy towards Unions from mainly right-of-centre employers. Indeed few employers, irrespective of political persuasion, welcome Trade Union representatives in disciplinary meetings although the law requires them to “allow” them on the request of the employee.
In many circumstances they could be welcomed. Representatives are usually highly articulate, often very genuine people and frequently intelligent enough to recognise mutual interest in satisfactory resolution of employee disputes. They can also tell the employee, out of earshot of the employer and in the employee’s own “language” that the employee’s behaviour needs to change. Importantly they help ensure the employee has a voice so that legitimate explanations of behaviour or mitigating circumstances are brought to the employer’s attention at a disciplinary meeting. The last thing you want is for the first airing of these to be at a Tribunal Hearing!
But the link with any political party is unfortunate and very occasionally Trade Union representatives have a thinly concealed political agenda. That can be counter-productive for the employee as well as for the employer.
It would be encouraging to think that the TU link with politics could become nominal, as it is for most employers, but clearly that is not going to happen.