Parliament & Politics: No-strike deal for GCHQ ruled out

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ANY UNION wishing to represent members at GCHQ would have to renounce the 'right' to strike across its entire membership, David Hunt, the Secretary of State for Employment, appeared to insist yesterday, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

Questioned over the continuance of the union ban at the Cheltenham communication headquarters, Mr Hunt ruled out a 'no-strike' deal as the way round what he and the Prime Minister believed was a conflict of interest between union membership and security considerations.

'We believe . . . it is incompatible with membership of a trade union to have some members who can go out on strike and other members who cannot,' Mr Hunt said at a Commons Press Gallery lunch.

The implication of the remarks is that no organisation resembling a union as currently understood would prove acceptable to the Government.

John Sheldon, general secretary of the NUCPS, which formerly represented GCHQ middle managers, said: 'This is a clear public admission from ministers that no form of trade unionism is acceptable to them for staff at GCHQ, and it shows that they were never serious about complying with ILO (International Labour Organisation) Convention 87 on freedom of association.'

Charles Harvey, of IPMS, the specialists', technicians' and scientists' union, said no-strike deals had been reached between UK unions such as the former EETPU (now part of the AEEU) and, particularly, Japanese companies.

There were likewise many cases where workers in caring professions had never been asked to take strike action. 'Unions often operate self-denying ordinances,' he said.