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Published by Unions TwentyOne

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Published by: Unions TwentyOne on Aug 19, 2010
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ForeFront is published by Unions 21 in association with Unity Trust Bank 
Issue Number 
December 05 - February 06
What a conference season Unions 21 has just had! We heldthree meetings in a month with an average turnout of 90trade union activists and political friends.At the TUC, we debated – in our ‘open space’ – how unionsmust grow in the relatively promising economic and politicalenvironment we nd ourselves in. We talked about mergers,adjusting the union to the potential members’ needs andpreferences, and even the personal standards trade uniono cials must follow in order to bring credit and reputation tothe movement.Our panel was lively and comradely across an ocean of dierent trade union experience. We heard from SallyHunt, the general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, along with NATFHE national o cial Roger Kline– soon, we hope, to be colleagues in Britain’s unied FE/HEunion the University and College Union (UCU). They bothemphasised how the movement as a whole must listen to thememberships’ demands of us all.Academic and sometime labour correspondent Robert Tayloropened up proceedings with his usual panoramic tour deforce of our trade union world. Paddy Lillis, Deputy GeneralSecretary of USDAW demonstrated how their union hadgrown steadily every year despite wrestling with the needto re-invent itself continuouslyin a world full of part-timeemployees.In between the TUC and Labourconferences, we held a one-day event on the Informationand Consultation Directive. Thiswas a serious and thoughtfulexamination of legislation andits impact, with contributionsfrom UK unions, colleaguesfrom Europe, employersand government ministerGerry Sutclie thrown in forgood measure. Some of thecontributions to this event areposted on Unions 21 website.On to the Labour Party, whereSecretary of State Alan JohnsonMP reviewed the relationshipbetween the unions and the Labour Government. Amicusdeputy general secretary, Tony Dubbins, gave a thoughtfuland thought provoking response and correctly demonstratedthe unions’ contribution to Labour’s electoral success.Adrian Askew, general secretary of Connect, the union forprofessionals in communications, critically reviewed whathas become known as the Warwick process. This meeting, asdid both the others, drew many questions, overran its timeallocation and provided genuine debate for the delegatespresent to get their teeth into.All this has driven us on to our planning for next year. We willlook at the dierent ‘models’ of social Europe with an eye onUK unions and Europe and examine and review the contentof the dozens of union applications to the Union LearningFund. N ext spring, for the rst time, we are organising aUnions 21 week with events taking place all across Britain,looking at dierent aspects of life at work, before culminatingin our traditional Saturday event in London on March 4 2006.Most exciting of all, we are condent that more unions areabout to announce they are joining us, or better still, re- joining us, to share in our energetic debate, free thoughtand total commitment to make our unions build a greatermovement for us all.
 Alive! Alive-O! 
The one day event on Inormation and Consultation was a great success.
Regulations exist or important reasons: to provideprotection or people, to deliver the legislative objectiveso the elected Government and to give service providers,employers, public bodies and o course the publicthemselves parameters within which to work. It is in theinterests o nobody or regulation to be excessive, or nott or purpose, or dicult to understand or apply. It is ashame that or some, in particular the small rms lobby,complaints about excessive regulation oten mask whatare really objections to the policy intention. The issue o regulation has become highly politicised overthe past ew years. The Government has tried to steer asensible course between over-the-top protestations bythe small rms lobby on the one hand and the genuineneed to ensure that regulations comply with the sensibleobjectives o the Better Regulation Task Force. The Task Force says that regulation must be proportionate,transparent, accountable, targeted and consistent. The TUC supports those ve objectives – though we areconcerned that some aspects o the legislation governingtrade unions does not meet some o those objectives. Forexample, why is it still necessary or unions to conductre-ballots or their political unds once the initial ballotto establish a und has been held, and given that unionmembers have an individual opt out that they can use atany time?Interestingly, in a recent survey by the Chartered Instituteor Personnel Development, two thirds o employerssurveyed believed that existing employment legislationhas helped them to earn the trust o their employeesand helped them to achieve their business goals. Thesurvey also revealed that many o the “red tape” concernsassociated with employment legislation were causedby poor consultation, clumsy drating o legislation andinadequate guidance. This might well apply beyondemployment legislation o course. The Government is currently consulting on a BetterRegulation Bill. This would amend the Regulatory ReormAct 2001 (RRA). The RRA contains a wide power to reormprimary legislation which is thought by Parliament,ollowing public consultation, to be “burdensome”.Burdensome is dened as “a restriction or condition oundin legislation, or a limit on statutory powers. It does notinclude administrative bother and convenience. It allowsor wide ranging regulatory reorms without the needor the ull Parliamentary process, using a process knownas Regulatory Reorm Orders (RROs). The consultationdocument concludes that the current RRO powers inthe Act should amended as they have proved to becumbersome and complex to apply and have limited thescope o reorms that can be delivered. The Government is now proposing to extend the powerso RROs so that they can ocus on the benets andoutcomes rather than on the individual “burden” andcan be processed more quickly and eciently while stillguaranteeing extensive and thorough consultation andeective saeguards. In our response, the TUC opens bysaying that clear, simple, relevant and eective regulationis in the interests o working people. Nonetheless, wehave to remain vigilant to the possibility o simplicationmeaning reduction in protection.Our chie concern about the proposals is the use o theterm “uncontroversial”: the current Government is toundertake not to use RROs or measures that are “largeand uncontroversial”, but the term “uncontroversial” issubjective and will necessarily be a matter o judgementat the time. Future Governments may use dierentstandards to judge what is “uncontroversial” and maynot be detained or long by saeguards that are tested bymatters o judgement. Parliamentary scrutiny o the use o RROs may not always be as “thorough and eective” as theconsultation document says.We would also want to see a reerence to the social impacto any regulatory reorm; this is essential to saeguardvulnerable groups in society and ensure that there are nounintended consequences, or example, in provision o public services. Neither do we believe that all RROs shouldreceive the same level o scrutiny as proposed – size orcomplexity do not necessarily relate to impact. The TUC made a number o proposals during theHampton review which concentrated on health andsaety regulation. These proposals were recalled in thissubmission. They included: working in partnership withall stakeholders when reviewing regulation and ensuringthat all stakeholders were represented in the governanceo regulators, and an acceptance that regulators shouldoperate to the highest ethical standards. On the risk assessment approach to enorcement we argued thatit is reasonable to concentrate limited resources wherethey will do most good but this is a matter o rationaluse o resources, not principle. We would certainly notaccept the elimination o routine inspection o lower risk organisations. Finally, we would not wish to see penaltiesor breach o health and saety, or employment law,reduced – indeed we are campaigning or penalties that tthe crime, including a corporate killing law with penaltiesincluding jail time or the most serious oences.
Regulation Bill
Sarah Veale, TUC Head of Equality and Employment Rights Department 
Perhaps it’s because Europe has spent so long in a stateo war that the uture o the EU is always seen in termso being a battle between two opposing orces. A war o ideology which is ought, not in the muddy elds o theSomme but in anonymous corridors in Brussels. Two-sided, polarised debates almost always dominate in theUK. Should the EU be a Christian club or secular society,do we pin our allegiances to an EU army or NATO and, o course, do we want a social Europe or one built on a neo-liberal US economic model? The problem, is that whilst debate in the UK and perhapssome other European countries may be polarised aroundtwo diametrically opposing arguments, the debate in theEuropean institutions is oten ar more complex.One o the great dierences between policy-making inthe EU and the UK is that in Europe outcomes are almostalways achieved through intricate negotiation. For tradeunionists, this is amiliar territory; our day-to-day work is allabout negotiation. However, many British politicians andmost o the media reporting EU issues in this country arear more amiliar with the Westminster way o lie; a wayo lie in which the government makes a proposal, a noisypolarised debate ensues, ollowed by the governmentgetting basically what it wanted in the rst place. This is one o the reasons why this particular debate is sooten positioned as a choice between a European socialeconomic model or one based on US style neo-liberalism. The problem with such a polarised debate is it isn’t alwaysgoing to be easy to decide the exact ground on which weare debating.We need to start with an understanding o what we meanby the European social model. Despite various pieces o EU legislation, dierent European countries deal with theircitizens’ protection and their workers’ rights in dierentways, so i there isn’t a single methodology, is there at leasta single outcome around which EU policy revolves? Thereare perhaps a ew basic principles which can be instructive.In most European countries policy-makers recognise theeconomic benets that come rom protecting citizensand providing workers with a voice in their workplace.Whilst vested interests may try to denigrate the role thatsocial protection and employee representation plays in astrong economy, the benets in terms o productivity aresignicant. There are, o course, other economic benetswhich fow rom the type o employment legislation wend in European countries. For example, health andsaety legislation keeps people economically active, whilstproviding employees with a better work-lie balance whichmeans that they are able to participate in the economy asconsumers as well as workers – increasingly important intoday’s consumer-driven economies.So, one element o the European model is that thestate recognises that social protection and employeeinvolvement are important parts o economic policy.However, there is a more basic principle involved. It’s not just about economic benets. Across Europe there is anacceptance by both government and society at large thatwe have a moral and social responsibility – a responsibilitythat is shared between the state, citizens and business.It is rom these basic principles that the idea o a Europeanmodel emerges, but like many things that are hard todene, it is easier to see it when contrasted againstsomething very dierent. Which is where the polariseddebate comparing Europe and the USA is particularlyinstructive. The US model certainly does oer a stark contrast to theEuropean way o dealing with the weakest in society. Take an example. Much has been said o the Americanresponse to the impact o Hurricane Katrina, but there is areason why it has received such great scrutiny. Whilst theextent and scale o the damage was unimaginable (and itis likely that any country would struggle to cope with suchan onslaught), it was a real surprise that the world’s richestand most powerul nation could have been so ill-preparedin a region notorious or tropical storms. The problemsexperienced in New Orleans demonstrate some o the keyailings o the US model. To European observers it was incredible that only thoseable to aord to leave the aected area were evacuated;that the reuge to which people unable to evacuate weresent had no clean water or medical supplies. The USmodel’s reliance on charity to provide or the least well o meant that when disaster came knocking, the state wasunprepared and unable to help. The real reason that the tragedy in New Orleans receivedso much attention is that what it means to be poor in 21stcentury America was laid bare or all to see. The Europeansocial model is about giving citizens a level o protectionthat, sadly, millions o Americans are lacking.However, the way in which that protection is providedvaries rom country tocountry, which makes
The ‘SocialEurope’debate – a veilfor Europe’sfailings?
 Adrian Askew, General Secretary of Connect, theunion for professionals in communications.
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