UNION rights took centre stage at Glastonbury yesterday as trade unionists warned of the uphill battle faced against a draconian government “worse than Thatcher.”
As revellers eked out what little energy they had left for partying on the last day of the festival before returning to their day jobs, civil service and firefighter union leaders painted a bleak picture for workplaces across the country.
Addressing political punters, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The Tories are really going to come for workers’ rights across the board. We’re in for a tough time that will be worse than Thatcher.
“The only thing that can stop them is trade unions and the strength of campaigns we’ve seen in housing and the NHS.”
However when panel chair John Harris did a straw poll asking who in the roomfull of activists was a member of a trade union only a quarter raised their hands.
Factors like increased self-employment, zero-hours and contractless jobs were cited as “the symptoms of capitalism” that are denying more and more people proper rights in their workplace.
FBU leader Matt Wrack warned the attacks are now going further with the government’s Trade Union Bill, which will introduce strike ballot thresholds designed to make walkouts that fail to reach a 50 per cent turnout illegal.
“If the same rules applied to politics there would not be a government,” he stated.
“Perhaps that would be a good thing.”And Mr Serwotka highlighted the barefaced hypocrisy of a government that only 24 per cent of the electorate supported in the general election while refusing to consider introducing online ballots for unions that would dramatically increase turnout.
“Cameron is a dirty filthy liar,” Mr Serwotka said.“People should be able to vote by telephone, online and in the workplace.” He added that this would increase turnout by three times that of traditional postal ballots.
Mr Serwotka also called for the national curriculum to include education about unions.
“People in trade unions are always better than those who aren’t,” he added.“Britain couldn’t run without its workforce.”
Blacklist Support Group organiser Dave Smith highlighted the government’s disdain for trade unionists, calling for the Home Office’s Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing to be extended to include police surveillance of trade unions.
The inquiry was launched by Home Secretary Theresa May to investigate revelations that undercover police spied on murder victim Stephen Lawrence’s family and began sexual relationships with female activists.