The Conservatives are launching their own trade union movement, which will target workers unhappy with more “militant” leaders.
It might sound like an oxymoron, but Harlow MP and the party's deputy chairman Rob Halfon said the Conservative Workers and Trade Union movement was designed for right-wing trade unionists.
“There will be a voice for moderate trade unionists who feel they may have sympathy with the Conservatives,” he told The House magazine. “There will be a new website and people will be able to join.”
Halfon went on to defend the Conservatives' stance towards unions. Always somewhat frosty, it's fair to say the relationship between the two has worsened over the government's controversial Trade Union bill. Critics claim it will undermine support for workers by making it more difficult for unions to strike. Labour MP Angela Eagle blasted it earlier this week as an "attack on basic freedoms".
But Halfon insisted the Tories were “the party of trade unions”.
“It was a Conservative Prime Minister, Disraeli, who legislated to allow trade unionism. Even Margaret Thatcher said we should protect the trade unions,” he said.
“But I think that trade unionism should be for the many, not the few. And at the moment, so much of it, you see it through the – going back to prisms – the prisms of a few militant leaders who I believe don’t represent the thousands of ordinary trade union members.”
Unsurprisingly, union leaders have been baffled by the plans.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack told Union News it was “bizarre”.
“[The Conservatives] have stolen workers’ pensions. They are making the workplace more and more unbalanced in favour of employers. Presumably the Conservative trade unionists will be masochistically cheering this all on. It’s just weird.”
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said it was “a shallow gimmick without any foundation or basis in reality”.