Today’s columnist, Harry Harpham MP: Claim just doesn’t add up

Union representatives from the RMT formed a picket line and protest outside Blackpool North Station following the dismissal of rail worker Chad Vickers.'Daren Ireland from the RMT hands out leaflets to rail passengers.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'12-9-2015
Union representatives from the RMT formed a picket line and protest outside Blackpool North Station following the dismissal of rail worker Chad Vickers.'Daren Ireland from the RMT hands out leaflets to rail passengers. PIC BY ROB LOCK'12-9-2015
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Recently David Cameron has been telling us that the Conservatives are now the party of working people, occupying the centre ground of British politics.

But saying something is the easy part. Delivering on what you say is something else entirely. Take a closer look at the Tories’ record over the last few months and his claim just doesn’t add up.

Pick any area you like, from health to policing, from education to the environment, and what you’ll find is old-fashioned, hard-right Conservatism passing itself off as ‘British values’ and ‘common sense’.

Want an example? Then look no further than the Trade Union Bill. Tory spin doctors will tell you it’s about increasing Union accountability. Sounds fair enough, right? If only it were so. In reality this is an ideological attack on working people.

Amongst other things this bill will mean unions need at least 50 per cent turnout for strike action ballots, a rule which hardly applies to any other democratic election in the land.

Union organisers will be tangled up in bureaucracy, and employers will bring in untrained agency workers to replace striking staff.

The upshot will be industrial relations getting worse, not better. Unions and employers must be able to work together on a level playing field to resolve disputes constructively.

This won’t happen if workers’ representatives go into negotiations with their hands tied behind their backs.

Our trade union legislation is already amongst the most restrictive in Europe.

Since the 1980s there’s been a nine-fold drop in the number of days lost, and when strikes do happen, two thirds last just a single day.

I’m not denying that strikes can cause disruption and inconvenience. But a day’s frustration is nothing compared to the damage done when employers can undermine people’s pay and working conditions.

From my own experience I know that a strike is not something anyone enters into lightly.

Losing your pay and shivering out on a cold picket line aren’t my idea of fun. But when push comes to shove, striking allows working people to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard.

The Conservatives want to criminalise those who oppose their austerity. Cameron may talk about the centre ground of politics, but his actions are those of a right-winger using the power of Number 10 not for the good of Britain, but of the Tory Party and their paymasters.