Watchdog on industrial action under-employed

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The Independent Online
A NEW watchdog to protect people against unlawful industrial action has had no customers. Gillian Rowlands has received 140 inquiries since her post was set up seven months ago, but all except one were from bodies asking what she did.

Mrs Rowlands, Commissioner for Protection Against Unlawful Industrial Action, offered one person help to seek the advice of a solicitor, but it was rejected. The individual concerned, 'declined the offer as the matter was resolved to his satisfaction'.

The new commissioner has taken on the responsibility - part of the Prime Minister's Citizen's Charter policy - at a time when industrial action of all kinds is at a 50-year low.

Mrs Rowlands, who is also Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members, argued that the mere existence of her job dissuaded workers from unlawful action: 'If I'm just sitting here doing that, then it can only be a good thing. It does take a long time for people to get to know what services are available.'

With her 'trade unionists' rights' hat on, Mrs Rowlands and her five staff spent more than pounds 274,941 last year. Out of 47 formal applications at the end of March the commissioner was helping six people with complaints against their unions. One received a favourable order from the court and four were resolved before they came to court.

As commissioner dealing with unlawful action, she spent pounds 85,880, 'mainly on publicity and administration'.