Trade union leaders dismiss Conservative plans as a pre-conference gimmick
The party’s deputy chairman, Harlow MP Rob Halfon, said the Conservative Workers and Trade Union Movement would aim to win over workers unhappy with “militant” trade union leaders.
Speaking to The House magazine, he said: “I’m proud that we are the party of trade unions. It was a Conservative prime minister, Disraeli, who legislated to allow trade unionism.
“Even Margaret Thatcher said we should protect the trade unions. But I think that trade unionism should be for the many, not the few. And at the moment, so much of it, you see it through the – going back to prisms – the prisms of a few militant leaders who I believe don’t represent the thousands of ordinary trade union members.
“We are recreating the Conservative trade union workers’ movement. There will be a new website and people will be able to join. There will be a voice for moderate trade unionists who feel they may have sympathy with the Conservatives or even just feel that they’re not being represented by militant trade union leaders.”
But union leaders dismissed the plan as a gimmick.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told UnionNews: “This is a bizarre development. The Tory government is attacking workers’ rights, including the right to be in a union. The Tories have helped to drive down workers’ living standards in order to boost profits for big business.
“They have stolen workers’ pensions. They are making the workplace more and more unbalanced in favour of employers. Presumably the Conservative trade unionists will be masochistically cheering this all on. It’s just weird.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “No-one will be conned by this nonsense. The Tories are the party of the rich and powerful. Their repeated attacks on workers’ rights shows that they detest ordinary people as actions always speak far louder than words. This is a shallow gimmick without any foundation or basis in reality.”
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Whilst welcoming the engagement of all workers it has to be on the basis of recognising the damage that the Tory Party has done in the past to workers and communities and dialogue with those who threaten democracy and freedom of speech with the lobbying and trade union bills I would wonder at the quality of any engagement.”
And a PCS spokesperson said: “This would be funny if it wasn’t such an insult to workers, treating trade unionism as a pre-conference gimmick.”
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