Blair tells unions to choose between induglence or influence

Tony
Blair has told trade unions they should work in partnership with the Government
and shun "self-indulgent rhetoric".

Speaking
at the TUC annual conference in Blackpool, the Prime Minister faced criticism
from unions, but told them to choose between "indulgence or
influence".

Blair
said unions with influence do more good than those with self-indulgent rhetoric
that "belongs in the history books".

Employment
law

Blair
also spoke about new employment laws: "Modern workplace partnerships also
demand modern employment laws," he said. "I am proud we have given
union learning reps proper recognition in law – something the TUC long
campaigned for. We need fair rights at work, not to revive industrial conflict
but to make sure that we do not only have more jobs, but jobs of quality."

Pensions

"Our
partnership must also tackle the issue of pensions. We have already helped the
poorest pensioners, and have announced significant rises this year in the basic
state pension. We are reforming Serps. We have introduced stakeholder pensions
and pension credit. Later this year, we will publish a Green Paper outlining
the future for pensions.

"But
these issues are really tough. There is real concern at employers opting out of
final salary schemes and then cutting their contributions, real anxiety among
older employees, real confusion amongst younger ones as to the best way to
provide for the future.

"So
I have asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to bring together
both the CBI [Confederation of British Industry] and the TUC to address these issues
to inform the Green Paper. We need your input and welcome it."

Partnership:

"Unions
are consulted and listened to. My door is open to any union leader.

"Partnership
doesn’t make headlines. But the vast majority of trade union leaders and
members know that it does far more good than a lot of self-indulgent rhetoric
from a few that belongs in the history books. "Indulgence or influence.
It’s a very simple choice.

"Of
course there will be hard issues in this partnership. There are low-paid
workers who deserve more, yet we know we have to be careful we don’t just
swallow up all the extra public service spending on pay. There are genuine
issues around the desire for employees to have better protection and the need
to keep the flexibility of our labour markets. And it is in the nature of
governments never to be able to satisfy all the demands made on them."

PCS
comments:

Commenting
on the speech, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial
Services Union (PCS), said: "PCS welcomes much of Tony Blair’s praise for
public services and servants. However, what we want is the deeds that put these
words into practice. I am staggered that on the eve of the first national
firefighters dispute for 20 years he failed to refer to these dedicated underpaid
public servants.

"Our
concerns about privatisation, PPP, low morale and low pay in the public sector
remain. I agree with the need to modernise public services but disagree that
modernisation means privatisation. We want a real dialogue about how we can
deliver quality public services from within the public sector.

"We’re
glad that Tony Blair understands the enormity of the looming pensions crisis
and the fact that he wants the trade union movement to help tackle it.

"It
was announced only this week that staff joining National Savings will no longer
have the protection of a final salary pension scheme. We want to know what
Blair is going to do to protect staff delivering this privatised public service
to prevent a two-tier pensions system."

EEF
comments:

EEF
director General, Martin Temple, said:

"A
major factor in improving our economy will be effective partnerships between
employers and the workforce. As such, we are concerned that the progress made
in the last few years will be damaged if current and pending employment
legislation is being interpreted on the ground by people who are not committed
to the partnership approach.

"In
addition, we welcome the Prime Minister’s recognition that a healthy
manufacturing sector, based on increased investment in skills, science and
technology is vital to the UK’s economy."

By Quentin Reade

Comments are closed.