Conservative Home

« Timothy Barnes: New (Ad)Ventures in Rwanda | Main | Derek Brownlee MSP: The perils of Local Income Tax »

J P Floru: Abolish trade union privilege

Florujp JP Floru is a City of Westminster Councillor and Prospective European Parliamentary Candidate for London 2009.

The aim of Bob Crow’s latest political tube strike is to bring about the re-nationalisation of the tube network.  The financial damage to the company Tube Lines will be substantial.  Why is it that trade unions are exempt from normal liability laws?  Should we not abolish trade union privilege so we are equal before the law?

Once again the RMT union is going to hold all Londoners to ransom.  About 300 of its members voted in favour of a tube strike of unreasonable length this week.  Is it acceptable that 300 people decide to bring London to a standstill?

The official reason for the strike is that the workers want a pay increase above the inflation beating 4.85% on offer.  According to Bob Crow, their staff are treated as second class citizens.  In fact, it’s precisely the opposite: the 4.85% is higher than the average pay increase of 2.7% in the public sector and 3.8% in the private sector between April and June 2008.  The pay and conditions offered are amongst the best in the industry.

Why would the RMT make these unreasonable demands?  This is of course nothing new: even Livingstone expressed surprise on a previous occasion when the RMT went on strike when all their demands had been met.  Then as now the answer as to why is simple: this strike is political.  RMT union boss Bob Crow -  a card-carrying communist until 1997 when he joined Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party - said last year on London Tonight news that he would organise strikes until the whole of the Tube was re-nationalised.  He already achieved part of his goal: the private company Metronet was re-nationalised when it was taken over by Transport for London last year.  Now it’s the turn of the still privately owned maintenance firm Tube Lines, next week’s target.  The financial loss resulting from strikes may very well trigger re-nationalisation.

Trade unions are not liable for the losses their actions cause in the same way as you and I are.  Under the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1992 they are not liable if their action was “in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”.  To benefit from this immunity they need to organise a proper ballot and notice.  Even when they are liable it is limited to a maximum of £250,000 depending upon the number of trade union members they have.  The 1992 Act was already an improvement on the 1906 Trade Disputes Act by which the Liberal government introduced the principle that trade unions could not be sued for damages resulting from industrial action.

Why should trade unions enjoy this privilege?  Surely, if we believe in a legal system centered on private property and equality before the law, this exemption of a group from liability when it causes damage (in the case of a tube strike on a massive scale), is totally unacceptable?

I thought the left was opposed to privilege?  Let’s abolish the trade unions’ privileges.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.