Chancellor will face union demands for more rights

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Indy Politics

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is making a speech to the annual TUC congress in Brighton, will be expected to signal sympathy for the aspirations of unions. They wield a third of the votes in the electoral college selecting the leader of the Labour Party.

Union leaders indicated last night that they will want to know what they can expect from a Labour Party under his leadership.

Apart from more sympathetic employment law, they are anxious to see concessions on pensions and a strict limit on the involvement of private companies in public services.

It is accepted that there is little chance of winning more union-friendly policies from Tony Blair. The Prime Minister will address a dinner tonight held by the general council of the TUC.

Yesterday delegates, angry over the treatment of workers at Gate Gourmet, urged ministers to repeal the law which bans solidarity action. As talks to end the dispute resumed, the TUC called on the Government to introduce legislation giving workers a range of rights which would make it easier to call strikes.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, told delegates that management at Gate Gourmet ran their industrial relations by using "deceit and intimidation".

Mr Woodley said: "It wouldn't be allowed anywhere else in Europe and it shouldn't be allowed here. The anti-trade union laws are clearly a green light for greed, a charter for these cowboy capitalists, a licence for bullying and they should go now."

Mr Woodley was given a standing ovation by hundreds of the mainly female Asian women who work at the company.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said a "fundamental" change of direction was needed to deliver more rights for workers.

The conference unanimously passed an emergency motion declaring the union movement's "profound anger at the shameful treatment" of the 667 workers dismissed by the catering company for allegedly taking industrial action without an official ballot. Workers at British Airways, which is supplied by Gate Gourmet, took unlawful action in support of the company's workers.

A separate motion, also passed unanimously by the 700 delegates, urged the Government to introduce a Trade Union Freedom Bill to allow workplace ballots for strike action. Under present legislation voting has to be conducted by post.