TUC in union rights battle

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The Independent Online
THE TUC yesterday opened up a new battle front with the Prime Minister over the controversial issue of union recognition.

Launching its biggest political campaign in a decade, the TUC urged Downing Street to ignore employers who sought to exclude small firms from the proposed law.

John Monks, TUC general secretary, warned against the CBI's contention that businesses employing fewer than 50 people should be excluded from the legislation. That would mean half the working population would not be covered by the law, Mr Monks said. "Either union recognition is a basic democratic right at work, or it isn't," he said.

Unions believe they won the argument over the majority required in any workplace ballot on recognition. The CBI argued effectively that abstentions would be counted as votes against - a position thought to have been favoured by the Prime Minister. Employers contended that recognition should only be granted when half the workforce voted for it, rather than half of those who actually vote.

Now the TUC is turning to other issues which it believes are as important, but where the Prime Minister might be inclined to favour the employers. The TUC is more confident of attracting the support of Margaret Beckett, President of the Board of Trade, and her minister, Ian McCartney.

Mr Monk said: "Small business lobbyists sometimes say that staff are treated as part of the family in such enterprises and therefore there is no need for any extra protection for employees.

"The small firm sector includes some of the best and some of the worst employers. The best have nothing to fear from union recognition and the staff of the worst need it more than most."