Trade union activity is not included in Pickles’ volunteer plan

TUC demoTrade unions do not form part of the Tory’s ‘Big Society’, it has emerged.

Eric Pickles on Friday announced a new Conservative government would offer up to 15 million workers three days’ paid leave for volunteering.

The TUC welcomed the news, saying: “We have long called for a Community Day Bank Holiday to encourage volunteering and community engagement. We therefore welcome any move that makes employers recognise the benefits of volunteering and social action.

“Trade unions are the UK’s biggest voluntary groups. This new right will give every union member a guaranteed three days for time off to get involved with union activities.”

But within hours a Conservative spokesperson said unions would be specifically excluded from using the leave.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Confusion is growing by the minute about the Conservatives’ time off for volunteering pledge. First Eric Pickles can’t make up his mind whether it is a right at all, and now the Conservatives say that there will be an approved state list of volunteering opportunities which will not include trade union activity.

“One wonders whether they will go on to ban help at food banks, outlaw giving advice to workers on zero-hours contracts and stop people volunteering for community wind power projects.

“If the Conservatives insist people can only help registered charities that means you couldn’t lend a hand at your local school, unless it is a private school with charitable status.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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