Changes urged in employment law

THE TRADE union movement yesterday presented Tony Blair with his first detailed shopping list when they overwhelmingly approved a programme of reform of employment legislation.

Even before the Labour leader had set foot in Blackpool for dinner with the TUC hierarchy, he was presented with the list of 15 reform items intended to redress the balance of eight Tory 'anti- union' laws. They included guaranteed recognition, a statutory right to strike without fear of dismissal, the right to picket and the right to industrial democracy.

John Monks, general secretary of the TUC, said 9 out of 10 people believed unions were essential to protect workers' rights. 'They know the law is rigged in favour of the employer,' he said.

Bill Jordan, general secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, believed the list of reforms was achievable and he rejected calls from Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, for the unions to go further in demanding a return to the days before Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979. 'We must not shy away from the fact that some elements of that legislation have been accepted by the majority of working people. Pre-strike ballots, election of union executives, elements that the Labour Party leadership know are here to stay,' he said.

The unions were united in their condemnation of the employment legislation introduced by the Conservatives. They were said to defy international conventions and were way behind best European practice.

Other speakers warned the movement must not appear to be demanding favourable treatment from Labour in case the electorate saw this as the party being in the pocket of union barons.

Britain was yesterday condemned being as the social outcast of Europe because of its objection to directives on working conditions.

Supporting a demand by conference for British multi-national companies to give their workers in Britain the same rights as their employees in Europe, Mr Jordan said the public supported measures in the Social Chapter. The TUC has calculated that the majority of the country's top 100 companies would be forced to establish consultative works councils for their European employees but not for those in Britain.