Liberal Democrats should support trade unions and strike action

I was delighted that a policy motion written by myself, and the Young Liberals Social Mobility representative, Emily Baker, passed with an overwhelming majority at Young Liberals Summer Conference in Birmingham.

At our winter conference in Edinburgh in February, we passed a motion showing  solidarity with the University & Colleges Union.  Emily and I thought that in light of the Federal Party’s response to the RMT strikes, a similar motion ought to be brought to our Summer Conference in an expression of our support for the union.

To be completely candid, the Lib Dem response to these strikes made me hugely sceptical about my place in the Party. The protection of Trade Union and employment rights, including the right to strike, are absolute fundamental liberal values that I’m completely unwilling to compromise. I thought better of quitting. Instead, bringing this motion to our conference alongside Emily, was our way to ‘sticking it to the establishment’ in fairly characteristic YL style. We are both thrilled about the support of YL members in both their speeches and in the vote.

The motion calls for our express support for the industrial action taking by the RMT; our support for industrial action across other sectors where businesses fail to negotiate, and members are balloted in support of industrial action; and to reaffirm our support for the Association of Liberal Democrat Trade Unionists.

 It’s become clearer that industrial action across sectors is increasingly likely: Royal Mail staff are heading for the picket, teachers are balloting for industrial action, Arriva bus drivers in the North West have been out on the picket line for 25 continuous days at the time of writing. Amendments to this motion submitted by James Green and Joe Norris, as well as English Young Liberals Chair, Oliver Jones-Lyons, have helpfully fleshed the motion out to include affirming our support for a variety of different Trade Unions and moved that Liberal Democrats should not oppose a General Strike if there are further restrictions on the right to strike.

Perhaps more controversially, our motion calls the Young Liberal to “renounce in the strongest possible terms” the comments made in broadcast rounds by Liberal Democrat MPs (n.b. Readers are reminded that Young Liberals conference is never shy about calling our parliamentarians out!). Munira Wilson MP on the BBC stated the government should be “working with the army and others to put contingency plans in place if these strikes are going to continue”; whilst Daisy Cooper MP on Sky News stated, “I don’t agree with the rail strikes”.

But this is about more than internal spats. Whilst the Tories pass policy which undermines strike action by allowing businesses to recruit temporary staff to fill the shortfall, and the Labour Party embarrassingly equivocates on their position on the Unions, we as Liberal Democrats have a real opportunity to establish ourselves as the Party of working people in this country. I believe we’ve failed at that far too often.

Trade Unions do more than just send people onto picket lines. They provide legal advice to members, provide support in disciplinary proceedings and defence against unscrupulous bosses, and campaign for changes inside the workplace. Trade Unions should have our full, liberal, support in these aims.

As I said, my view is that the right to fair pay and conditions in a core liberal tenet. Indeed, it’s enshrined in our constitution that we ought to “champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals”. Well, against the backdrop of soaring inflation and energy bills, and after a decade of stagnant wages, is it not about time, in the interest of people’s dignity and well-being, that working people in this country get a fair deal? And if businesses are not willing to share their booming profits, is it not wholly reasonable for employees to leverage the withdrawal of their labour to achieve better pay and conditions? Young Liberals conference certainly believe so. 

 

 

 

 

 

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52 Comments

  • Well done Callum. I shared your concerns about the comments of some Liberal Democrat MPs that would have been expected from a hard right Tory MP but not from one of our own. I trust the leadership will take on board both the motion and how strongly it was supported, and our MPs will either make more appropriate comments or confine themselves to commenting in areas where they actually share Liberal Democrat values.

  • Sometimes striking is the only weapon left.
    BUT to be effective the strikers must have a good case, general public sympathy and group resolve.
    My own record, yes I participated in a one day strike and on another occasion although my managerial union continued working we donated our pay for the days, to those other unions in the organisation, who were out.
    The old Liberal Party enabled the development of Unions and in effect the Labour Party at the turn of the 19th century, we should be no different now.

  • nigel hunter 16th Aug '22 - 9:45am

    The 2 MPs who are against strikes .Have they got more conservative voters (small and big C) to consider in their areas therefore agin strikes?
    Be that is it may Unions have fought for peoples rights for a long time.Just one of their successes was right to holidays (lots more).
    There is a lot of anger/worry in the country concerning living standards and not just in Union members.If you take away peoples opportunities to live comfortably,cut wages (for all sorts of reasons) people become recentful,apathetic ,confused.to name just a few. division wins ‘slave labour’ of all sorts takes over (witness P and O) a slide to the bottom.WE NEED STRONGER UNIONS TO DETER this slide to the bottom. YES we should be supporting them.

  • Helen Dudden 16th Aug '22 - 10:13am

    I agree, the slide must be stopped.
    My grandfather a coal miner in Radstock supported the General Strike. Many endured severe hardship, but it continued.
    No ambulances in the Bath area, even the son of a Tory MP runs a private service.
    A Housing Association, still let’s out homes where many have dire repairs.
    To be Working Class is not a form of punishment.

  • Ken Prydderch 16th Aug '22 - 10:47am

    I have left the Welsh party, but I believe that all the woes in this country could be sorted by state ownership. I know that it’s a labour call, but what else can we do?

  • David Warren 16th Aug '22 - 11:08am

    As someone who spent 30 years as an active trade unionist I broadly support the rail strikers and others taking action following a democratic vote to do so.

    However Liberals urgently need to move beyond a simplistic support or oppose position. The vast majority of strikes occur as a result of the adversarial relationship between management and trade unions. The way to avoid this is greater participation through things like works councils. There also needs to be a greater use of mediation to resolve disputes.

    Looking wider we need to look at trade union reform particularly in the area of political funding where the majority of union members pay money to a party without even knowing it. This needs to be part of wider set of measures to make trade unions more democratic.

  • @David Warren
    “…where the majority of Union members pay money to a party without even knowing it.”
    I must disagree with this assertion. The 2016 Trade Union Act requires that all new members have to actively ‘opt in’ to paying into a political fund and that unions must remain all members each year of their right to opt out of paying the political levy at any point. I find it hard to imagine that the majority of those paying the political levy are unaware of it.

  • Sorry, type, should have said ‘remind’ rather than ‘remain’…

  • Laurence Cox 16th Aug '22 - 12:25pm

    While we need to support Trades Unions, we also need to encourage them to make their pay demands in cash terms rather than in percentage terms, so that the lowest-paid workers don’t lose out. For example, train drivers’ salaries can reach £70k, while booking clerks average just under £30k. It may be difficult to get the former, represented by ASLEF, to agree to a deal that benefits RMT members more than them, but we need to be critical friends of the Trade Unions and persuade them to do what benefits the industry and the country as a whole, not just their own members.

  • Kyle Harrison 16th Aug '22 - 12:29pm

    I’ve voted Tory since 2010 and may vote Lib Dem next election but I certainly wouldn’t vote Lib Dem if the Lib Dems become more left than Labour. This article seems like something a Corbynite could write. “The party of working people”. Ermmm… We already have one, supposedly, called Labour. The Lib Dems do well in usually Tory areas, Munira Wilson is my MP and I back her totally in what she said. Twickenham is either Tory or Lib Dem, never Labour. The same can be said of many Lib Dem target seats. If the Lib Dems want to win over “soft” Tories like me turning into a socialist party is not the way to do it. Do the Lib Dems actually want to be liberals or socialists? Trade unions do little to seriously improve wages. Productivity gains improve wages. Wages rises with no productivity gains just creates inflation.

  • The Labour party is anachronistic. Starmer was right to sack Angela Rayners’s boyfriend. They can’t be truly the govt in waiting if they took the unions side. The control the unions have over Labour is its achiles heel. Giving pay rises equal to inflation would be the wrong thing to do. The increased energy costs is one of the costs of standing up to Putin and one that we need to pay. As a result we should all be poorer. The question is how this cost is spread. A good govt would be able to say, with conviction, “We’re all in it together”. Easier said than done.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '22 - 2:59pm

    The article, the comments by mps, both miss the point.

    The Liberal Democrats are for people. Individuals. Not a class. Not a group. Yes many individuals together united in a cause make a collective. But of individuals all with individuality.

    Unions are not run like that. The executives often speak for members. The leaders often speak for the executives.

    The comments by our mps were exagerated by those on the farther left or who are idealistic about the power and muscle of collective action. As colleagues here note, even within this dispute there are those who we ought to support and those we ought to neeed to be far less in support of.

    Less than twenty thousand cleaners, are not the same as Thirty thousand plus ticket managers , are not the same as sixty thousand plus train drivers.

    Similarly we ought neve use the wretched modern phrase, “working people,” It is code for not being honest to say working class, or implies the person using the wrtetched phrase, are not for those not working, the unemployed, poor, retired, disabled.

    We are for people. Good people. Decent people. Those who struggle those who help the struggle.

    We are not, my union right or wrong!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '22 - 3:05pm

    And any move left of Labour on strikes that do harm, yes, Mill’s principle, are in the wrong party. Left Labour has vaccancies, with Corbyn no longer a Labour MP!

    Now is the moment to support the damands of those who suffer, and do so with demonstrating, campaigning, speaking. It need not lead to strikes. Only a general strike, in support of all those who cannot afford to live under the current nightmare economics, makes sense.

    Rail workers stopping nurses get to work do not get my support, but rail workers demostrating and campaigning do!

  • David Warren 16th Aug '22 - 3:48pm

    @Sadhbh

    You clearly don’t have my intimate knowledge of how the trade union movement actively works in practice.

    Unions find ways around the legislation in various ways. Some move money from their general funds into the political accounts to give money to Labour.

    As for the members. In my union the line to give was that the political fund was needed for campaigns on important issues like health and safety at work. When I got onto the unions NEC I found out the truth.

    The only way forward is to give members an individual choice over where there political contribution (if any) goes. The Tories haven’t got their heads around how to do this because they don’t understand how unions actually work either.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug ’22 – 3:05pm…..Now is the moment to support the damands of those who suffer, and do so with demonstrating, campaigning, speaking. It need not lead to strikes.Rail workers stopping nurses get to work do not get my support, but rail workers demostrating and campaigning do!………..

    And standing quietly, in their off-time, outside a station with a banner, handing out unwelcome leaflets, will achieve what?

    Thank heaven that the Young Liberals are aware of a future UK led by Liz Truss..She will surround herself with others from the ‘Free Enterprise Group’, Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, et al..Their ‘Britannia Unchained’ laid out their vision for employees in their new world; a world without employment rights, unregulated workplaces, no minimum wage, a race to the bottom…

    Their “British workers are the worst idlers in the world” means us not them; Raab remaining on a sun lounger ‘as Afghanistan collapsed in chaos’ (to quote the ‘Sun’) doesn’t count of course..

    Thanks again to the young; it’s their future..

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '22 - 4:22pm

    expats

    If you read my pice I make it clear I think some are justified in their strikes. But if you think I am for the so called campain you describe, think some more! The great protests of the past and present are not an either very little, or too much. The protest movement I think can work, involves a capturing of the imagination. The eloquence of leaders and members, the marches we have seen and shall, the media that is now democratised via the web, the artickles those with fame can write that are read, all this and a lot else.

    You do not need to praise one article by one young liberal. You could praise a deo of young liberals, social democrats, socialists, greens, non aligned, all against poverty!

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '22 - 4:23pm

    Trouble with keys, on my current device…

    Should be

    You could praise a demo…..

  • My views are as follows.
    It is essential that we start with a shared understanding of the facts of this and any other issue. An example is the pay that people receive now. We need to know something about the range of pay, including payements for being away from home if they leave a train at a late hour far from home. The same applies for everyone else. I am sure that the unions and employers would share this information. Our members could then be given the facts, via the regular appeals for money from HQ.
    Beyond this I am not sure it is useful to decide to take sides in a dispute until we are clear why we have the opinions we are circulating. We should also be demanding that employees are fully involved in decision making in the company.
    And thirdly, for now, we need to find ways of spreading our message with advice to our activists on building a campaign to spread the word.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '22 - 4:29pm

    And expats it is yopng and middle aged and old who the future belongs to.

    I do not need a lecture about what a Truss govt is about.

    I have campaigned in Labour and this party for decades. And cross party .

    I was a young member of Labour at thirteen, and demostrated as I described throughout my youth.

    And have spent my early middle age in financial straights through no fault of my own, and try every day to improve my lot, and that of my wife, with disabilty issues and poor services!

  • Mick taylor 16th Aug '22 - 4:39pm

    I am a life long trades union member. Without the union I would have had dreadful problems at work on at least 2 occasions. I was on strike twice, once as a young school teacher and once as a senior university lecturer. On both occasions, it was because management was intransigent.
    That is exactly the case with the current rail strike. Why are Network Rail effectively refusing to negotiate? Why, because the government won’t let them. What our MPs should be doing is demanding that proper negotiations take place without restrictions. or better still pushing for mediation. I really think there should be more understanding of why the strikes are taking place, rather than criticising the trades unions for taking the only action they can in the circumstances they face. The government thinks it will do better if the strikes continue than if there is a negotiated settlement. The comments of our MPs are playing into the government’s hands.

  • Chris Platts 16th Aug '22 - 4:56pm

    We need Unions and they need the right to strike,but only after negotiations have failed. A more cooperative labour relationship needs to be developed as in other countries,but these countries do experience strikes by workers as well. Yes I think the rail workers have a valid reason to withdraw their labour as the employers are not coming up with the appropriate level of options,but as well as strikes they need to continue to find a settlement as well.

  • Jason Connor 16th Aug '22 - 5:27pm

    I would agree with the author. More LD party members should join trade unions. They should not just be the preserve of Momentum and Labour as I found when attending a Unite meeting a few years back, but need to reflect society as whole and people of other political backgrounds. Anyone who cares about employee rights and conditions should join one. That way Union membership is more democratic and people should also respect the right to strike where a democratic vote has taken place.

  • David Evans 16th Aug '22 - 5:55pm

    Lorenzo, Do you really believe that “Only a general strike, in support of all those who cannot afford to live under the current nightmare economics, makes sense”?

    If so, I ask you, when our nation is surrounded by an economic catastrophe, that almost everyone knows and accepts has been brought about by the extreme right wing ideology of an incompetent Conservative government, how do you think that that Lib Dems supporting an extreme left wing solution of a general strike where everyone stops producing anything, will help solve the anything?

  • George Thomas 16th Aug '22 - 6:39pm

    “working with the army and others to put contingency plans in place if these strikes are going to continue”

    I think the army should change their slogan from “be the best” to “be whatever the UK Government needs you to be when they don’t want to properly invest in public services.” They’ve been ambulances, fire services within last two years and now are going to be rail workers too! Taking away the power of strikers takes away the power of workers which only increases the power of bad bosses.

    “Daisy Cooper MP on Sky News stated, “I don’t agree with the rail strikes”.

    What does this mean? No one likes the disruption caused by strikes – not even Union leaders who stop helping people and have to go on TV to justify why Union’s exist each time – but surely Daisy should be asked what about these specific strikes she disagrees with? Otherwise it’s a pointless statement, no?

    There’s a difference between being a party in government and being a Union leader but people don’t tend to strike unless feeling desperate, miles away from a solution and as our population becomes older, poorer and workplace becomes more automated the number of people feeling desperate will increase. It’s not an issue that’s going away.

  • Paul Barker 16th Aug '22 - 6:54pm

    Politicians (this means You & me) should keep out of Industrial Relations, they/we should not be backing or attacking strikes.

    What we should be saying is that continually squeezing Real Wages in the Public Sector is wrong & stupid or dishonest. In a time of low Unemployment workers will go somewhere else. If the Tories want to cut The NHS they should say so. We in turn should be upfront about the need for High Taxation if we want decent services.

  • As it happens I’m preparing just now for a meeting tomorrow morning of my work’s branch of Unite, which I will chair. The lead article here is right that as a party we are not as visibly pro-union as we should be. It’s not so much about the details of individual strikes as a general posture.
    So, yes our MPs should sound a it more like Mick Lynch and a bit less like John Redwood. And yes all LibDems should join a Union if you can (but if you do, make sure you tick the box saying you don’t want to pay the ‘political levy’ – that’s the bit that goes to the Labour party!)
    And please stick with us Callum. This party is a complicated balance, but we need folk like you to make sure we don’t tip too far the other way (as we did in the Clegg years).

  • Well said Paul Barker. The squeeze on public sector wages (both actual and the result of financial pressures on out-sourced services) is driving so many of the problems that we see in this country. Years and years of cuts in real pay cuts while the retired do pretty well…public sector pensions have increased much faster than public sector pay.

    But we need efficient public services and the intransigence seen in the rail dispute seems to be in part due to the linking of productivity improvements and pay by the Unions. Strikes are rarely about simple issues (that is usually why they have strikes) and we need to be very careful about taking sides.

    As a party I would like to see us encourage trade union membership, review and perhaps enhance rights of recognition and consider ways of further improving trade union democracy.

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Aug '22 - 10:07pm

    @Jim Webber
    “But we need efficient public services and the intransigence seen in the rail dispute seems to be in part due to the linking of productivity improvements and pay by the Unions.”

    You seem to exclude the management from criticism. Might the managers possibly be part of the problem?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '22 - 10:10pm

    David

    I think you mistake my understanding something for supporting something.

    I understand the rail strike but do not think it the soution.

    I think to those who are suffering it makes sense to have a general strike. I do not support this however.

    David, my comments emphasise my view that we need to do far more that is proactive, rather than strike. I merely alluded to that example to show how relating to something ought not mean the advocating of that.

    Good to hear back from you and engage

  • @Russell…
    Those that have to visit a paypoint & purchase £10 electric/gas top up voucher for the pre paid meter – couldn’t care less about Putin or Ukraine …
    Far too busy trying to survive…

  • Rail strikes will cause disruption for people on lower and less secure incomes than the striking workers, making it harder for them and emergency services workers etc to get to work.

    In the modern economy we cannot equate industrial action with social justice. It is better to have an across the board approach to help the low paid rather than inflationary pay rises for organised labour and nothing for non-organised labour.

  • Matt Haines 17th Aug '22 - 8:47am

    @Kyle Harrison

    You seem to imply that supporting the right to strike is somehow Socialist. It isn’t. It was the Liberal movement which allowed unions to form in the Victorian era.

    The fact that these strikes have cross-party support says a lot.

    It also says a lot that you think people standing up for themselves against a government that has done nothing but gut public services, suppress wages, restrict rights and liberties, and stoke tensions, are somehow in the wrong.

    Unions have secured many benefits which we now take for granted. Such as a two day weekend, sick pay, holiday pay, paid lunch breaks, and maternity pay. On average union members get paid more than non-union members (in equivalent jobs), and it has been that way for decades, so your notion that it drives inflation is utter nonsense. Funny how huge bankers bonuses never drove inflation, but heaven forbid a minimum wage workers in a hospital should get one.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug ’22 – 4:29pm……………I do not need a lecture about what a Truss govt is about………….

    Lorenzo, I’m sorry if it sounded like a lecture; it wasn’t meant as such.. I was just getting the ‘Britannia Unchained’ issue off my chest..BTW I haven’t seen any detailed media questioning of Truss about her ‘Vision for Britain’ in this campaign; the bits about her Republican and LibDem history are mere window dressing and can be laughed off as youthful folly.. Underneath it all she, and those closest to her, are dangerous..

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Aug '22 - 12:33pm

    expats

    As ever, well mannered you, appreciate that response, as I really similarly didn’t mean to get shity with you personally, rather with Truss and all who sail in her!!!

    A ghastly state our land is in!!! Thanks

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Aug '22 - 12:33pm

    expats

    As ever, well mannered you, appreciate that response, as I really similarly didn’t mean to get shirty with you personally, rather with Truss and all who sail in her!!!

    A ghastly state our land is in!!! Thanks

  • David Warren & Lorenzo Cherin, I think are on the right track. The LibDems shouldn’t become “New Labour Mk2” and take sides in a relationship largely formed by the 18th Century. Instead, they should be “progressive” and advocate more grown-up work relationships.

    Aside: It wryly amuses me that Liz Truss’s “British workers as lazy” and “Essentially it’s partly a mindset and attitude thing I think. Yeah, its working culture basically.” applies in spades to the management of British industry – the fish rots from the head…
    I hope someone is mining the disclosures as they are a mine of soundbites that can be twisted and used against the Conservatives in the coming GE.

  • Andrew MacGregor 17th Aug '22 - 1:25pm

    Thanks Callum.
    One of our first actions as a party is to call out the media on its misinformation over the strikes. The BBC, ITV, Ch4, Sky and others have run with it simply being about greed by train drivers. The RMT is not the Union for TDs, and they represent the rest of the staffing at the railways from cleaners and porters upwards. The strikes are about wholesale changes to the contracts of staff, allied with a derisory offer. These changes represent reductions in safety, increased hours and an actual real terms reduction in pay for rail staff.
    I note someone says the strikes go better when you have support from the populace, but the populace is being fed absolutely unchecked propaganda. And it’s also controlled by the Govt, despite the lies being spread by them via an uncritical press. No agreement on any aspect can be reached without referral to the Secretary of State Grant Shapps.

    We need to show active support by calling out the liars, repeatedly and often.

  • Andrew MacGregor 17th Aug '22 - 1:45pm

    Roland,
    The creation of the Labour Party via trade u ion representation occurred after the election of the first trade unionist to parliament (not Kier Hardie either, but) a Liberal.
    The Liberals had already a well established relationship with the trades unions which started soon after the first unions got going in the 19th century.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 17th Aug '22 - 3:30pm

    Thanks Roland, glad to be mentioned in this way. David is a good colleague on here, a realist who has a considerable experience of organised labour. I have experience from my youth too, of organised Labour! They are, as Andrew states, not the first to establish links with labour unions . John Start Mill and other Liberals were very encoraging of the trade unionists of the nineteenth century. But it was a man who I share a birthday with, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, the PM of 1906 onwards, the greatest Liberal leader in many ways, who was most supportive of unions. He also, idealist as well as a realist, encourage some Liberals in working class areas, to stand aside for the then new Labour candidates. Modern, and New Labour actually rarely favour this for others, but they seem not to care, that party only got started fast, with Liberal backers!

  • Much appreciation to the Young Liberals. My own TU – like the vast majority outside the big 3 – isn’t a Labour-affiliated one and no-one is seriously suggesting it should be, but nevertheless in our recent strikes we’ve had support both moral and financial from local Labour activists, as well as from the Greens. Maybe sometime soon we’ll see members of your party out on the picket lines with us too.

    In the meantime, one specifically *liberal* set of actions which wouldn’t require supporting any specific strikes: repeal and liberalisation of a lot of the specific anti-TU legislation that’s built up from the 1980s onwards. There’s no reason that TUs should be held to any more pointlessly inconvenient standard of democracy than (say) political parties, general elections or corporate shareholders are – and the current approach actually harms internal TU democracy by requiring consolidation of decisions with central executives.

  • Glad to see vigorous debate among the Young Liberals. Absolutely yes, our party should support working people, all working people. Inflation, climate change and the other challenges our country faces doesn’t discriminate. Let’s be frank about 12 % of the working population are in unions. They (Unions) have repeatedly failed to grow in our fastest growing and most advanced industries.
    They are increasingly a public sector focused organisation. Do we back the RMT against the commuters who cannot go to work or the Post Office workers versus the e-commerce companies trying to get their goods delivered. We should support working people, lobby for more negotiation and stand up for working people. Credible economic policy rather than gestures with unions might be a better approach.

  • James Fowler 17th Aug '22 - 11:18pm

    There is only one Party that has an umbilical link to the Trade Union movement, and it is not the Liberal Democrats. Most Lib Dems will understand and probably sympathize with many of the reasons why Unions are striking, but we will never be able to intrude on the intense, historical and emotional tie that binds labour to Labour. If Liberalism could truly represent workers it would not have been necessary to invent the Labour Party. But complete solidarity, an essential requirement the defensive struggle of the working class, is always going to problematic in any Party which respects the sanctity of individual conscience.

  • If the Conservatives are the party of Capitalists and Labour the party of the working classes where does that leave the rest of the population – middle-income earners in clerical jobs, self-employed, pensioners, disabled and unemployed, children etc.
    Union membership has become dominated by the public sector where the government itself is the employer or regulator. Unions are an essential element of bargaining for employment rights in the public sector. Less so in the private sector where employment legislation has been largely an EU wide political process.
    Our EU membership aligned the UK with the European social chapter. In the absence of these social protocols there is a strong likelihood that employment rights will begin to be eroded in this country. As a party we will need to be able to push back against that and support the efforts of trade unions in doing so, while balancing policies and actions with the needs of individuals unrepresented by either the Conservative or Labour parties. Worker representation at board level and industrial democracy are traditional Liberal solutions in place of adversarial class conflict.

  • @Joe Bourke
    I am curious as to how you define ‘working class’ if you do not regard those in clerical jobs as within that definition. Similarly, working class people have children – are their children not within your definition of working class? And are you suggesting that a working class person who were to acquire a disability would somehow cease to be working class?
    My view is that there are only two classes – a class whose ownership of capital provides the bulk of their incomes and a class who don’t. A self employed joiner is as much working class as a joiner who works for the council – both earn most of their income from their work. A pension is basically deferred wages or salary so pensioners who main source of income is their pension remain working class despite no longer working.

  • Kevin Hawkins 18th Aug '22 - 4:35pm

    @Sadhbh
    I think your definition of working class is a bit simplistic. Are members of the royal family working class? They presumably earn most of their income from their ‘work’. How about company directors who earn a very high salary which may exceed their income from ownership of capital. I don’t think that many of them would be regarded as working class by most people. I doubt if there is any way of defining class that would be universally accepted.

  • @Kevin Hawkins
    Yes, you are of course correct that my definition is simplistic but, I would suggest, it is better than simply classifying poorly paid earners as ‘working class’ and higher earners as ‘middle class’. To illustrate my point, is a train driver with no formal education qualifications but earning twice as a much as a teacher middle class, and the teacher working class?

  • Sadbh,

    the Cambridge dictionary defines working class as “a social group that consists of people who earn little money, often being paid only for the hours or days that they work, and who usually do physical work.”
    There is no commonly accepted definition of working class as this article discusses Working Class Unions have traditionally focused on blue-collar workers and vocational occupations such as teachers and nurses.
    With the class-based grip of the other parties weakening and the dilution of bloc voting along class lines the chances of a hung parliament increase. As a centrist party, LibDems need to be equally wary of all forms of concentrated power whether that be the monopolistic tendencies of big business or Union control of Lthe workforce in essential services.

  • @ Andrew Macgregor, you say …..
    “The creation of the Labour Party via trade union representation occurred after the election of the first trade unionist to parliament (not Kier (sp) Hardie either), but a Liberal. Liberals had already a well established relationship with the trades unions which started soon after the first unions got going in the 19th century”.

    Sorry, not particularly accurate, Andrew, especially in Scotland where 56 of the 58 Liberal M.P.’s elected in December, 1910 were extremely wealthy industrialists, lawyers or landowners and the Liberal Chief Whip (the Master of Elibank) opposed the 1903 Gladstone-MacDonald pact. This is unsurprising given that M.P.’s were unpaid before 1911 and the franchise was not universal. Politics was the preserve of the wealthy – or folk who toed the line.

    You mention Keir Hardie (former miner and journalist.). Hardie began life as a Liberal turning to independent Labour only after being turned down twice as a candidate by middle class Liberal ‘shopocracy’ caucuses in Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. Lanarkshire Liberals chose a wealthy public school Welsh barrister who could afford to pay the election costs.

    Incidentally Harold (Jack) Tennant (Asquith’s brother-in-law and son of Sir Charles Tennant ‘the richest man in Scotland’) failed to win Berwick and East Lothian in 1918 despite paying the modern equivalent of £ 29,000 for the election expenses out of his own pocket. Average pay for an East Lothian coal miner then was under £ 1 for a six day week. (Hansard, 13/12/1922).

  • @Joe “or Union control of Lthe workforce in essential services.”

    Except that the Union doesn’t control the workforce. The workforce has the power to stop or start services as a necessary consequence of its existence. The Union provides a (sometimes) convenient framework for organising that collective power, but if “the Union” says do this and the workforce disagrees, it’s the workforce that decides what happens next.

    That works both ways: a union trying to organise strikes its members don’t back will never get anywhere ; a union blocking strikes its members do back will eventually find itself ignored and the workplace shuts down anyway as the members either find a better union or launch a wildcat action.

  • @ Martin Gray.
    Maybe not. And maybe we should let Putin march through Europe. By and large the west has decided Putin must be stopped. I happen to agree. There is a price. It’s unrealistic to expect a standard of living in 2022 as high as it was in 2021. So the question is: who pays? I’m suggesting all of us to some degree.

  • Nonconformistradical 21st Aug '22 - 8:56pm

    Journalists at rightwing Daily Express set to strike over pay

    “Staff from newspaper that rails against ‘militant trade unions’ will join sister outlets in striking on Friday”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/21/journalists-at-rightwing-daily-express-set-to-strike-over-pay

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