Letter: Workers too afraid to join trade unions

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your criticism of trade unions (Leading article, 9 September) is not quite fair: at least one reason for the fall in union membership is plain fear on the part of employees. Many would prefer to have precarious and poorly paid work than no work at all, and many know that even the suggestion of unionisation could cost them the job.

This fear is the direct result of legislative changes over the past decade and a half. What were regarded as basic democratic rights (the right to withdraw one's labour as freely as one might sell one's shares) were simply outlawed by a government that had declared war on "the enemy within".

Most people would share your view that we should be paid "according to our talents and negotiating tenacity" but this is likely to be weak indeed when new graduates take work in un-unionised, pittance-paid burger bars.

The prime raison d'etre for trade unions is what it always has been when the worst excesses of grasping capitalism go mad (as they surely have in recent years). The only economic clout available to vulnerable wage- earners is unified solidarity, and as a last resort the withdrawal of labour.


London SW6