Letter No 62  by Mike Allott: back to directory

5 June 2015

Dear Sir or Madam,

Divided  we stand on the place of unions in Tory Britain

Andy Prendergast (GMB) rails against the proposed union legislation in the Queen’s speech (Letters, 29 May). “Minimum turnouts,” he argues, “represent the biggest attack on the right to organise for over a generation.” Except the attack is not on the right to organise. It is, essentially, a reasonable challenge to super-unions and their reliance on a democratic deficit.

I have been a member of what is now Unite for almost 50 years. Over a century ago, my grandfather was a union organiser in the Hull docks. He was working-class Liberal. I am white-collar. He would now be in Unite via the TGWU. I arrived via banking and Amicus.

It should symbolise a sweet symmetry of cross-sector amalgamation. In reality it displays a cynical indifference towards the promised inclusivity on which the Unite super-union was originally pitched.

For, despite our diverse political allegiances and social cultures, we have all been subsumed into a socialist convention, where our scarce resources are channelled in the vain hope of securing a leftwing Labour government. But a super-union is, by definition, an administrative confederation. It must accommodate and satisfy its disparate segments. It is not a gift to an executive committee, only in place because they showed up.

My grandfather’s Liberalism, and my own middle-class values, are part of the wide social mix necessary if super-unions are to survive. But old Labour-style solidarity – where the many delegate to the few – is no longer fit for purpose. A super-union needs to discover a new super-consensus. Minimum turnouts may be a tentative start.

Mike Allott

Eastleigh, Hampshire

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