Unions hand `shopping list' of demands to Blair

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Indy Politics

Labour Editor

In the wake of his successful charm offensive among American business leaders, Tony Blair was yesterday handed a "shopping list" of demands by the big unions. Above all, the Labour leader was urged in the first year of government to toughen up proposals to give unions rights to recognition for collective bargaining.

Davey Hall, president of the moderate Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, called for a Blair administration to force employers to recognise unions where a majority of workers wanted it. So far, Labour policy only envisages legislation to grant negotiating rights where more than half the workers belong to a union.

Mr Hall told the Scottish Trades Union Congress annual congress in Edinburgh that unions often found it impossible to recruit employees if there was no recognition in the first place.

The big unions have already made their views clear in the private "contact group" of Labour politicians and union leaders, but yesterday was the first time the demand was made public.

Labour's union affiliates, which command half the vote at policy-making conferences, regard the issue as critical

Mr Hall told the 500 delegates: "If we only get one piece of progressive legislation, it should be the right of recognition of bargaining and representation."

A Labour government should also abolish or drastically reduce the qualifying period for claiming unfair dismissal. "It is this injustice that has contributed more than anything else to the current culture of the disposable worker and the zero-hours contract," Mr Hall said.

Bill Speirs, deputy general secretary of the Scottish TUC, said that in its first year a Blair government should legislate to establish a Scottish parliament. There should also be an emergency programme to create 80,000 new jobs in Scotland.