Trades Union Congress: Single-union agreements at new vehicle plants criticised

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Congress yesterday indicated its strong disapproval of the type of union agreements often demanded by Japanese companies establishing plants in Britain, writes Barrie Clement.

Delegates unanimously condemned single-union agreements based on 'paternalism' rather than 'participation and pluralism', an apparent attack on the deal signed by the engineering section of the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union at the Nissan plant in Sunderland.

Jack Carr, assistant general secretary of the white-collar union Manufacturing Science Finance, said the agreement disenfranchised professional workers because they saw the AEEU as a manual workers' union. The motion also opposed the single-union plant agreements imposed by employers - thought to be a reference to the deal signed by the engineers at Toyota, whose Deeside plant yesterday produced its first engine.

The AEEU decided to support the motion in the 'interests of unity', but Gavin Laird, its general secretary, expressed strong reservations about its wording. He defended the single-union deals signed by his union. 'We have more than 100 of them, we are proud of all of them and we will sign more,' he said.

The resolution also opposed the completion of 'no-strike' deals before the work-force had been recruited. This was a direct criticism of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union, which has signed dozens of such agreements. Jack Adams, deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said the EETPU had been 'willing to sacrifice almost any rights of future employees in the quest for recognition'.

TUC officials have been asked to draw up an alternative to its Bridlington procedures, under which it prevents one union poaching members from another. The Government will shortly introduce a Bill that will allow workers to belong to the union of their choice, thus undermining the TUC's powers.

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