Vince Cable orders review of industrial law to investigate union and employer behaviour

One of the things that made me wince recently was the experience of a Grangemouth manager whose family were traumatised by the appearance of a union mob on their doorstep. There is no way that sort of action can be described as anything other than intimidatory and it is right and proper that it should be investigated. People’s homes are off limits. I was livid last year when UK Uncut demonstrated outside Nick Clegg’s house, although to be fair, it was a good natured demo and Nick himself was quite relaxed about it.

You can always rely on the Tories to jump on any union misdemeanour, but not to bother if employers are taking liberties. The PM was keen to set up a review of industrial law to investigate whether any changes are necessary in light of the Unite tactics. Vince Cable will be responsible for setting that up, but he has ensured that its scope includes employers as well as unions.

From Scotland on Sunday:

At the time, Prime Minister David Cameron launched a fierce attack on Unite over the “leverage” strategy. It is understood Downing Street insisted that, as a consequence, a review take place, with a view to banning intimidatory tactics.

Cable said last night: “Generally speaking, industrial relations are on a good footing in the UK and have been for over two decades. The current strike rate is also at a historic low. Good workforce relations are key to the success of British industry and, therefore, to economic recovery.”

He added: “There were clearly some very serious matters going on in Grangemouth. That is why I have agreed to a proportionate and rational review of industrial disputes, including leverage and other tactics used by both unions and employers. There will be representatives from both sides on the independent panel, which will be chaired by a reputable QC with experience of working with both employees and employers.”

He went on: “There are rogue unions but there are also rogue employers, some of whom have in the past engaged in illegal tactics like blacklisting. This government will tolerate neither.”

This is another example of how Liberal Democrats contribute to making the government much fairer and more even-handed than the Conservatives or Labour could ever manage alone. Labour would overlook union misbehaviour, the Tories would turn a blind eye to employers’ exploitation.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Richard Dean 17th Nov '13 - 11:54am

    There may also be one or two rogue government ministers!

  • A peaceful protest with a giant rat v’s being summarily dismissed and the food from your children’s table and their christmas presents from under the tree being snatched away…mmm

    If the government insists on breaking the effective negotiating power of workers they will move back outside the law.

  • Robert Wootton 17th Nov '13 - 1:26pm

    I advocate the use of the Team Syntegration method of resolving any dispute. Whether the dispute is between employers and employees or parties to a coalition.

  • The coalition government refused to conduct an inquiry into organised blacklisting of union members by the construction industry, then they do this.

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of Grangemouth, this government is not in favour of organised labour and is not in favour of protecting workers rights.

    Let’s not pretend otherwise and let’s stop whitewashing the failure of the liberal democrats to stand up for ordinary working people against rich business owners.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Nov '13 - 3:01pm

    If the Tories had had their way, they’d have brought in Beecroft’s fire at will recommendations. Nick Clegg said no.

  • Caron, I am not sure that you are not OTT on saying any demo outside someone’s house should be off-limits. I think especially where there is a vast disparity between the power of individuals in a system eg Chief Exec vs ordinary worker, the workers are entitled to bring it right home to the CE that his or her actions are affecting their families deeply. There should be some guidelines about intimidation or chronic harassment, of course, but an occasional, and, yes, inconvenient appearance should not be banned. Incidentally, what about harassment by reporters, photographers, phone hackers et al?

  • Caron, there is no evidence that the Tories would have brought in Beecroft’s recommendations, most were obviously silly and many probably illegal under various human rights legislation.

    I’m sorry, I really am, it’s tragic, but the Lib Dems have done absolutely nothing in government to increase the safeguards given to employees, all they have done is given more power to employers, even if not quite as much power as the Tories would like. That’s a regression. Not progress.

  • Yet again, Vince Cable shows by his actions that he in politics to make a positive difference. The public responds favourably to conviction politicians in a day and age where so many politicians appear insipid.

  • Dave Eastham 18th Nov '13 - 11:15am

    Caron, we should all be careful in this. This enquiry, which quite rightly includes the behavior of employers as well, should hopefully be a genuine one. There has been much posturing from the Tories and Right wing press over Unite’s “bullying” of Ineos executives. This really was not helped by the BBC’s seemingly willful misuse of video footage (which was not theirs) pro-porting to show such intimidation. The footage used was a different dispute from six months before and was in fact from the Crossrail blacklisting dispute. See website for the details of what really happened. The Grangemouth saga, whatever else it is/was, is simply essentially an classic old time antediluvian Employer “Lockout”.

  • g wholly agree with your comment.
    Dave Eastham – Pedants’ Corner Purporting

  • Unite has millions of members with savings in the billions. Perhaps they should pool their resources and buy the plant at Grangemouth themselves.

  • David Wilkinson 19th Nov '13 - 7:31am

    Given that Lib Dem minister Cable and Swinson have already reduce workers rights, it will be a surprise if they accept that employers have done anything wrong with the use of blacklists

  • Richard S, why on earth would a trade union, which exists to represent the interests of workers, want to own a petrochemical plant? Unite isn’t an investment fund! What point are you making?

  • Caron – You wrote, “People’s homes are off limits.”
    I guess you did not have in mind the homes of those people who will have to pay the bedroom tax?
    Or the homes of those people in Welwyn Gaarden City who are fighting the fracking ambitions of the Marquis of Salisbury?
    Or the homes of those people who have their front door knocked down at the crack of dawn because the spooks and the police got the wrong address when hunting down “suspected terrorists”?

    In comparison a few trade unionists with a blow-up plastic rat seems nearer a vicar’s tea party.

    You wrote that “a Grangemouth manager whose family were traumatised by the appearance of a union mob on their doorstep.” Really? Traumatised? A mob?

    This sounds a bit like Nick Clegg and David Blunkett being traumatised by Roma families in Sheffield who are doing nothing illegal but are committing the ‘crime’ of being a bit different, sounding a bit different and not knowing their place.

  • g

    in which case the point I am making is that they can hardly expect someone else to be the hero and do something (put their money on the line and run the plant) that they are not willing to do themselves. Unite is accused of being far left, but Marx said workers don’t need capitalists, let them prove it.

  • Richard S, the function of a trade union is not to own the means of production, but to provide support to the people who operate it!

    Your argument is like saying the Catholic Church should buy Grangemouth because some people who work their are Catholics.

    It’s a category error!

    Begs the question though, what do you have against organised labour?

  • As far as I know the Catholic church is not asking others to do something it is not willing to do itself, whereas the union apparently is.

    I have nothing against organised labour. When I was a programmer, some other techies and I organised ourselves and had a punt at a company. Now, in a different field, I organise the people who work for me. Those who don’t value my skills at doing that and/or/because they are able to organise themselves don’t need to work with me. Further I don’t see any moral reason why I am obliged to keep on in that line of work for longer than it suits me, just as those I organise are under no obligation to stay longer than it suits them. We are not slaves.

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