TUC Boss - Labour Mistakes 'Unacceptable'
Brendan Barber - Labour v the Unions?
TUC general secretary wants a debate on economic democracy.
London - 7 September 2007
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 Peter Tatchell, on his weekly internet TV programme, Talking With Tatchell, which is broadcast this evening (Friday 7 September) at 8.30pm on www.18DoughtyStreet.com TV.
To view the programme in advance, click here: http://snurl.com/1qctd
For a transcript, see key excerpts below.
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."
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.
Excerpts from Talking With Tatchell, Labour v the Unions?
Friday 7 September, 8.30pm, www.18DoughtyStreet.com TV
Brendan Barber on Gordon Brown's below inflation pay increase for public sector workers:
"I think this has been a major, major mistake by government...the target they seem to have chosen to try to restrain any inflationary pressures is the pay of public servants, and I just don't think that's justified, and I don't think the evidence supports that. When the Governor of the Bank of England had to write to the Chancellor...he didn't cite pay pressures as leading to the increase in inflation, he pointed to the problems of energy prices and, to some extent, food prices, zooming ahead much faster than predicted... millions of people in our health service, in local government, in our other major public services are being expected to put up with a real decrease in their living standards because their pay simply isn't matching up to inflation. And that's not an acceptable approach."
Brendan Barber on the growing gap between rich and poor under Labour:
"That big picture of growing inequality, not just between the extremes - those right at the top and those right at the bottom - but between those right at the top and the great majority of people in the middle somewhere - but where we see this super-rich elite accumulate wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, at a time when an awful lot of people are being told, 'Hold your horses - you're not even going to get a pay rise that matches inflation' - I think that's a bigger challenge - and a challenge that we need to see the government responding to. I sense that there's a worry about these super-rich, floating free of the rest of society, not paying their fair share of tax to help support our major public services, and I don't think that's healthy in a democracy."
Brendan Barber on the government's failure to listen to trade unions:
"I hope they've learned a lesson this year, that this very arbitrary aproach of a centrally-dictated, very crude public service pay target, which was established at two per cent, then ruthlessly forced through without giving a real opportunity for proper negotiation...the government (is) not supporting the recommendations of the independent pay review bodies in key areas - that, in particular, has generated much of the anger (from trade union members)...there's a review body that makes a recommendation - they recommended two and a half per cent - already below inflation - and the government insisted on scaling it down even further by staging the awards. I hope the government has learned this year quite how unacceptable that approach is regarded as being, and I hope we're not going to see that in future pay rounds."
Brendan Barber on Gordon Brown's opt out from the EU Charter to protect employees and ensure workplace rights:
"Our government, the British government, a Labour government, has not been supporting some of the important employment measures that the European Union has wanted to introduce... One major example - a key area for us - is that there's been a proposal for a European directive to protect the position of people who work through employment agencies to try and ensure that they are treated on the same basis as other workers doing similar jobs, and that directive has not yet made sufficient progress, in part because our government has not been supporting it....there is this impression of a lack of support for the social dimension of the European Union - and the Charter of Fundamental Rights is one manifestation of that - I mean, this is a charter that articulates some basic rights that are expected to be commonly observed throughout all the member states of the European Union. It is only our government, the only member state, that is saying 'we don't want this charter to have legal force' - to have full legal force, so that signal that's being sent is a very, very negative signal and we've pressed the government strongly, 'think again'. For the European Union to maintain the suppport of ordinary people, they have to see that there is a commitment to decent standards for workers as part of the vision going forward."
Brendan Barber on economic democracy and worker participation in decision-making:
"We are pressing that issue and that cause...This issue - genuine opportunities for workforce involvement - we need a much livelier debate about that than perhaps we've had for some time".
Labour versus the unions?
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.
Talking With Tatchell is broadcast every Friday night at 8.30pm on the internet TV channel,www.18doughtystreet.com
Previous programmes are permanently archived. Type "Tatchell" into the search facility to access all past editions of Talking With Tatchell.
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