Next TUC chief hints at Hunt alliance

THE NEXT LEADER of the Trades Union Congress attacked his organisation's close identity with the Labour Party yesterday and held out the prospect of an alliance with David Hunt, the Secretary of State for Employment.

John Monks, present deputy general secretary of the TUC, said that despite four election defeats, congress has continued to put 'a lot of eggs in the Labour Party basket'. He said: 'It is time to build up contacts across the political spectrum - not only because the TUC is independent but also because a considerable minority of union members voted for the other mainstream parties.'

Mr Monks, whose election was confirmed yesterday when it became clear that there would be no other nominees for the general-secretaryship, singled out Mr Hunt as a Conservative politician with whom the TUC might be able to do business.

The Secretary of State for Employment had been saying 'interesting things' about the social market economy and the need for a return to apprentice-style training courses, Mr Monks said. One danger, when the Conservative Party found itself in difficulty, was that the Government tended to give unions a 'bit of a kick'. Mr Monks hoped that Mr Hunt, with his reputation as a Tory left-winger, would not be tempted to adopt such policies.

One of his main tasks as TUC leader, said Mr Monks, was to ensure that the new Employment Act coming into force on 30 August would not result in a further decline in union membership. The statute will mean that all union members will have to confirm in writing that they want their union subscriptions deducted from source from the so-called 'check-off' system.

Mr Monks said that the TUC would ensure that all 6 million union members covered by check-off arrangements were contacted and persuaded of the benefits of union membership.

The new TUC General Secretary, who will take over the post on 10 September, has received the backing of 31 unions, representing 87 per cent of the TUC membership - the highest percentage ever achieved.

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