Blair urges unions: Do deal with CBI

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair has asked TUC leaders and CBI bosses to try to reach a deal over trade union recognition before the Govern-ment publishes a white paper threatening legislation on the issue, which caused a flashpoint during the general election.

The TUC general secretary John Monks and Adair Turner, the director of the CBI, have thrashed out their differences over trade union recognition over private dinners accompanied by their teams. "There have been top teams on both sides," said a union source.

The private dinners have taken place without Mr Blair's trade union adviser, John Cruddas, being present. That is being seen at Westminster as clear evidence that Mr Blair wants the two sides of industry to reach a new bipartisan relationship, without the Government taking part.

"Tony would prefer a voluntary code of practice, if possible. He is keen to avoid a row over this issue," said one Labour insider.

The unions would not settle for a voluntary code of practice, but one option could be to have a code underpinned by statutory powers, for firms where there was no agreement.

"You don't get a voluntary agreement unless there is pressure on the employers to respond to the work force," said the union source.

In spite of signs that Mr Blair is seeking to reach a compromise, Whitehall sources said the Government was committed to legislation, which would not be abandoned.