The new head of the TUC last week promised to grow union membership in the
UK and broaden its agenda to be relevant to the modern workplace.
In his first major speech since replacing John Monks as general secretary,
Brendan Barber said the union movement must recruit more members and
concentrate its efforts on the modern service sector.
He told guests at City University’s vice-chancellor’s lecture that the
decline in union numbers seen during the 1980s and 90s had halted, but genuine
growth was still proving illusive.
"I want us to be seen as a growing force again. We need to break into
the private service sector, because that’s where the real growth is going to be
in the long term," he said.
However, despite claiming partnership agreements had reduced the number of
strikes, Barber adopted a more old-school stance when defending the recent
round of industrial action.
"I’m not the slightest bit defensive about strikes. The right to
withdraw labour is a fundamental human right and it would be a very strange
right if it was never exercised," he said.
Barber told the gathering that the TUC had already trained 5,000 union
learning representatives, which gained statutory rights to promote training in
the workplace this year.
Barber also hailed the forthcoming Information and Consultation Directive as
a watershed in industrial relations which could potentially lead to "huge
He believes the directive will lead to greater partnership in the workplace,
with managers and employees becoming more used to consulting with each other on
issues which will affect the business.
Unison to vote on co-ordinated action over pay
The country’s biggest union is
considering proposals that could see an increase in co-ordinated industrial
action across the whole of the public sector.
Members of Unison, of which there are more than 1.3 million
members – mostly in the public sector – will vote on key amendments this
They will decide on changes that could see pay claims
co-ordinated across different public bodies such as the NHS and schools.
The motion talks of a national approach to pay bargaining
across all services with a consistent approach to: long-term agreements,
industrial action and the retention of job numbers.