Parliament: Cabinet denies split over trade union recognition

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The Independent Online
TRADE MINISTER Ian McCartney denied yesterday that there had been a clash between himself and Peter Mandelson over trade union recognition, pledging "there is not a trade union card you could put between us on this matter."

The Government came under cross-party pressure to spell out whether there would be any changes to the "Fairness at Work" White Paper during Commons question time.

Labour backbencher Jim Marshall (Leicester S) led concerns when he called for Mr McCartney to assure him that there would be "no significant changes" for trade union recognition at the workplace.

Under the proposals, published earlier this year, there would be automatic trade union recognition if over 50 per cent of the workforce were trade union members. In other cases, there would be recognition if in a ballot more than 40 per cent of the workforce were in favour.

Other proposals include the lifting of the ceiling for industrial tribunal awards, which is presently set at pounds 2,000.

Replying, Mr McCartney rose to laughter from all sides when he said: "From day one this Government has been committed to introduce greater fairness at the workplace ... You cannot put a trade union card between me and Mr Mandelson on this matter."

He added that he had consulted his "comrades" both at the CBI and the TUC to proceed toward a framework of partnership at the workplace which included trade union recognition.

During a later exchange, the Mr Mandelson himself was pressed on trade union legislation by John Redwood, the shadow trade secretary, who claimed that the Trade Secretary wanted to "water down" the proposals."You have said `no more spin - honest'. Will you now, loud and clear, tell us: are you standing by every word or are you watering them down?" said Mr Redwood.

But Mr Mandelson made clear that the Government wanted to encourage commitment by all those who were employed in firms and companies, a commitment to those firms' success, their profitability and their future success.

In translating these measures from the White Paper into the Bill, "we will be faithful to the tenets and principles that we set out," he said.