Friday, 1 November 2013
UK Unionism Needs Restructuring
For the past couple of weeks I've observed the Grangemouth Ineos vs Unite dispute from the sidelines. The left-wing press had a few field days painting Jim Ratcliffe - the owner of Ineos - as a villain and blackmailer while other media used less pejorative language.
During my research for this post I stumbled over this article From Iain MacWhirter and found it to be a fair assessment of the most serious Scottish industrial dispute in years.
As a sympathetic observer of the desperate events, the people I admired were the workers who saved the day by effectively sacking their local union leaders. Iain MacWhirter is correct when he says: 'Some Labour people might have been content to see the plant close, the better to damage Salmond'. That is true.
To substantiate my remark let me tell you about a conversation I had with a fellow bridge player this week. His usual cheery personality was subdued and when I enquired if all was well with him he immediately launched a rant about Unite. I'm paraphrasing: "Stupid union leaders with their own personal agendas. They have no interest in their members wellbeing or futures. I'm shocked at the behaviour of the 'leverage team'. How can any responsible union invade the privacy of company directors?" Charlie spoke more throughout my contact with him during the evening and eventually I said he must be a Tory-voting unionist.
His reply astonished me. "I was a senior Unite official for many years until I retired in 2006. During all my years with the Union I believed that respectful and courteous negotiation with management was by far the best way in which to air my members' grievances.
In the latter years of my service, I was aware a hardcore of unsuitable people had risen through the ranks and their agendas would become clear in time. The handling of the Grangemouth dispute is a serious stain on the reputation of 'my' Union and 'my' Labour party is no longer fit for purpose."
Jokingly I suggested he'll now be voting for an independent Scotland and the SNP. "Too right I will," was the reply. "I'm never been a fan of Alex Salmond, but I've watched his actions in this closely and I've been forced to accept his political skills are far above any in the Labour party."
If a retired, senior ex-Unite official is so distraught by his Union colleagues behaviour, what will be the future of Unionism in Scotland?
Maybe a trip to Germany would be helpful. German Unions have protected both German industries and their workforces whilst UK Unions continue to do the opposite. Could it be that they use Charlie’s philosophy of respect and courtesy instead of personal ambition which can lead to corrupt behaviour?