A stern warning to union bashers.

Seumas Milne forcibly reminded readers of todays edition of  The Guardian that the country (and democracy) needs the unions as much , if not more than, it ever did.

Today David Cameron ditched compassionate conservatism for vintage Thatcherism, demanding that Gordon Brown call on BA workers to cross picket lines and back those “brave workers” who wanted to go to work. His sidekick, Michael Gove, insisted Labour had reverted to “1970s socialism”. Even the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has been hailing Margaret Thatcher’s socially devastating assault on “a vested interest, the trade unions”.

There’s not much sign of the politics of the 1970s, but the Conservatives certainly seem keen to return to the industrial conflict of the 1980s. The idea that the government is in thrall to the unions doesn’t bear even the most cursory consideration. Not only have ministers, as in every other major national dispute of the past decade, backed the employer and condemned the strike – even if Brown yesterday reverted to a more even-handed call for a negotiated agreement. But during 13 years in office the government has steadfastly refused to repeal any significant part of the Thatcher anti-union legislation that has hamstrung employees from defending themselves and certainly prolonged the current BA dispute.

As anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to public life under New Labour is well aware, it is bankers and businessmen, not trade unionists, who have been calling the shots – with calamitous consequences for us all…………………

Milne’s conclusion is that:

……unions remain not just the only real mechanism for employee protection and a collective voice at work. They are also an essential vehicle to break the elite circle and open up representation in political life. The assault on them is an attack on democracy itself.

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