Unite leadership contender pledges no Christmas strikes

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Indy Politics

A contender for the head of Britain's biggest trade union today pledged never to call strikes over Christmas if he is elected.





Les Bayliss, who is bidding to be general secretary of Unite, said public sector strikes would only deprive the vulnerable of services they needed and the ones the Tories wanted to cut.



Unions would be doing the job of the "bad guys", said Mr Bayliss, adding: "Strikes will also change the victims, our members, into the villains of the piece. The story will get changed from Government savagery to union militancy. The Tories will hit us with even more restrictive laws and working people will look away in disgust."



Mr Bayliss said the current dispute between Unite and British Airways was a "perfect example" of the point he was making.



"The BA cabin crew had a good case, they were being forced to accept a change in their contracts without agreement by a vicious and greedy employer, and it was unacceptable. But when we announced the 12-day strike over Christmas the public and many of our members were so horrified they immediately lost sympathy for the victims.



"If I am general secretary of Unite there will never be any strikes called over the Christmas holidays. Strikes cost a fortune. I think the unions would be better using these massive resources to win hearts and minds.



"Unite had considerable success talking to members in marginal constituencies in the run-up to the election about the dangerous policies the Tories were planning to introduce. Many of the seats the Tories were targeting remain in Labour hands because of this work."



Mr Bayliss said unions should not repeat the "mistakes" of the 1980s when there were constant battles with the Conservative government.



"Unions face a similar challenge to the one that confronted us under the first Thatcher government. Millions of jobs were lost due to a recession caused by government spending cuts. Unions lost millions of members because of the unemployment and it weakened us.



"We were provoked into battles against the state we could not win, but still we fought because we were proud fighters and we lead with our chins. Inevitably we were cut down, we were restricted by anti-union laws and worst still for us these laws were supported by working people because we had lost the argument.



"Tory economic policy was hurting our people but the popular narrative of the time was all about strikes and the power of the unions. We lost it.



"In my view the current Tory Government is hell bent on finishing the job Margaret Thatcher started by critically reducing the role of government in helping everyone of us live safely, securely and in good health and giving us all a fair crack of the whip at education and a good job."

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