Fairness at Work Bill: Murdoch may not like Bill

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT has decided to risk the wrath of Rupert Murdoch in a key clause of the "fairness at work" Bill.

Ministers have decided employees will have the power to scrap management- sponsored staff associations in favour of independent unions, The Independent understands.

This clause could mean the end of Mr Murdoch's ambitions to encourage an in-house employees' organisation at the Wapping newspaper plant.

Senior Labour Party sources believe the association envisaged by the newspaper magnate for his News International employees would fail to win the approval of the official Certifi- cation Officer, who is the arbiter of union independence.

The "anti-Murdoch" clause is another indication that the Government is prepared to take on the tycoon where necessary. The Prime Minister already believes the Government might have to live with Mr Murdoch's Euroscepticism and not allow it to influence policy.

Today's Bill envisages a whole range of new rights for employees on such issues as parental leave and will also include clauses on compulsory union recognition.

Under proposals in the Bill, which Mr Murdoch and other newspaper companies attempted to delay, employees will be able to trigger a ballot on the continued existence of what the Labour movement would call a "sweetheart" union. If 40 per cent of the workforce support abolition, then it will be scrapped.

Employees could then hold a vote on the recognition of an outside organisation, with the same level of support required for it to win bargaining rights. Automatic recognition will normally awarded to unions with 50 per cent membership.

A spokeswoman for News International, which owns The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and the News of the World, was sceptical that outside unions would win bargaining rights, although a survey was said to show that 37 per cent of the employees wanted "third party representation".