Today’s columnist, Coun Julie Dore: Attack on democratic rights

Staff from Kings Mill Hospital have joined thousands of NHS workers across the UK, including nurses, midwives and ambulance staff. ''Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk
Staff from Kings Mill Hospital have joined thousands of NHS workers across the UK, including nurses, midwives and ambulance staff. ''Tom Maddick / Rossparry.co.uk
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The Government recently unveiled its draconian plans to undermine democratically-run trade unions – organisations that play a vital role in representing the interests of ordinary working people, challenging low pay, erosion of employment rights and health and safety concerns.

The Trade Union Bill is an ideologically-driven attack on workers’ civil liberties that will restrict basic workers’ rights and at worst criminalise those campaigning for a fairer deal at work.

After gagging charities and restricting access to justice, this is yet another attempt to silence critics of this Government and their policies.

Like the rest of the UK, our city faces significant economic challenges: attracting investment to drive growth and create more jobs, raising productivity, and tackling skills shortages and inequality.

This is where the Government’s focus should be, not on restricting the democratic rights of our hardworking teachers, nurses, factory and shop workers.

The UK currently has the second worst productivity performance in the G7. Attacking unions will do nothing to address this. On the contrary, it will likely worsen our position.

Countries with strong unions, such as Germany, are more productive than the UK.

This is because workers deliver better results when they are engaged and get a fair slice of the pie.

Unions have also been right to make the case for long-term investment in infrastructure. Britain is ranked 27th in the World Economic Forum’s rankings for infrastructure investment.

This will have to improve if our economy is to become rebalanced away from London and the South East so that cities like Sheffield are able to achieve their full potential.

And by playing an active role in improving pay and conditions for their members, unions have helped to reduce poverty and create a fairer society.

We know that our economy prospers only when business and employees work together harmoniously. Within the most productive parts of the economy, like manufacturing and engineering, there are countless examples of management and unions working closely together on new technology to boost productivity.

This divisive bill risks souring that relationship, holding back our economy, and distracting from the urgent task of putting the economic recovery on more solid foundations.

* Coun Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council