Some days, you know why you do it.
There was a day like that last week that gave me huge reassurance that what we
stand for rings some bells with my fellow citizens.
The first thing that
trade union officials need is a little modesty. Our convictions and commitment
to human rights at work, the raising of British productivity in the global
economy and partnership with employers is not to everyone’s taste.
But this week, my
union got some bread back across the waters.
After two years of
detailed planning and, yes, some sharp words, the AEEU and MSF finally put a
ballot to its members concerning a merger of our two unions.
The members understand
unity only too well. In both unions, in a secret postal ballot of 30 per cent
in each union voted by 80 per cent majorities to put our two unions together
into a new union over a million strong.
We will now cover
people at every level of vocational accomplishment in manufacturing, the public
services and not for profit sector, and finance. Further consolidation is in
the wind with talks already under way with other unions.
The significance of
this for constructive industrial relations cannot be underestimated. Our new
union stands for co-operation with reasonable employers – the partnership
For us to be partners
in a sophisticated global economy, we need resources to support our members in
factories, offices, political arenas and Europe. The members have assured us of
those resources. We must now use them wisely.
The same day as we
received the ballot result in Manchester, we heard the news that Virgin
Atlantic Airways had at last decided to follow the route of a voluntary
agreement with the union for recognition. They heard their own employees’ voice
and our careful, quiet persuasion.
We will enter that new
agreement, anxious to prove that what we stand for adds something to our
members’ lives who have waited for a long time for recognition of their union,
but equally adds value to the airline in achieving economic success.
Perhaps we are doing
something right. Trade unions do engage the loyalty of individuals and the
respect of progressive employers. Last week, we got a huge dose of each.
For some of us, it was
not without significance that our modern re-statements of trade union purpose
were announced at our meeting in a Manchester hotel, 800 metres from the pub
where the Electrical Trade Union was founded in 1889. Those Victorian craftsmen
would have been pleased.
By John Lloyd
National officer, Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union