Row over union ban at GCHQ is revived

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The Independent Online
Ministers were back in the dock yesterday over their controversial 12- year ban on unions at the top secret Government Communications Head Quarters based at Cheltenham.

The official Certification Officer refused to grant the GCHQ Staff Federation - created under the patronage of management - a seal of approval as an independent union.

That means the International Labour Organisation, part of the United Nations, is likely to denounce the Government in the strongest possible terms - something which is normally reserved for authoritarian regimes in Third World countries.

The refusal to grant a certificate comes despite a government effort to grant the federation more independence in an attempt to avoid censure by the ILO.

The judgement by Ted Whybrew, an independent statutory official appointed by the President of the Board of Trade, gave six reasons for refusing a certificate: that the federation's officers had to be employees at the centre which gave management powers of discipline; that it could not merge with another organisation nor recruit from elsewhere; that the federation had to satisfy the conditions of service at GCHQ; that it was 80 per cent funded by management; that staff had limited access to industrial tribunals and that effectively they were banned from taking industrial action.

Federation chairman Brian Moore said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision and that his organisation would be taking its case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

Mike Grindley, chairman of GCHQ Trade Unions, countered: "It proves what we have been saying all along. The federation is a puppet organisation set up by management. It is not independent in any meaningful sense of the word. It was and remains a transmission belt for management."