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Democrat July 2000 (Number 45)

The National Question

In a contribution to this discussion, STEPHEN ROGERS berates union leaders and asks "should there be a written constitution?"

It is commonly believed that the Unions in this country are "in bed" with the big corporatist international businesses. Working in partnership are the buzzwords of today's industrial relations. No longer do the workers enjoy a healthy and democratically adversarial relationship with their employers, but are bounced into accepting more and more obligations with less and less remuneration.

I have experienced the consequences of such appeasement by our so called workers representatives. In mid 1997 I was employed by a very well known `'British'' global industrial gases distribution company, as a sales and serviceman to the leisure and hospitality industry - supplying beverage dispensing gases. It was necessary to have in place a rota for emergency weekend call out and, as we were salaried on a 37hr week, we were paid the equivalent hourly rate plus time and half or double time, depending on what day we worked. This extra remuneration was a deciding factor in my, and many of my colleagues accepting the job in the first place. During one of our regular meetings, we were simply told by senior management that they were negotiating a new 'deal' with regard to on-call 'allowances'. It was as if it was a foregone conclusion, cut and dried that our overtime payments would be termed allowances and, of course, vastly reduced. We were later called to a regional union meeting, there we were told that these allowances were to be set at 50 per day worked, no matter how long that day turned out to be. Considering that a twelve hour day would merit around 180 on Saturday, and 240 on Sunday - it was quite unacceptable. Each regional union meeting was told by the representative that if we refused this `'deal'', then we would have to make a statement to the company. This meant strike action and, it was suggested that as the cylinder fillers were unaffected, they would not back our action. This scaremongering resulted in the `'deal'' being accepted through secret ballot.

Here is a graphic example of why Colin Bullen is right to assert that every working person should make the effort to hold their union and political representatives to account. (June 2000 issue.) How dare the leadership of some of our unions spout off in favour of the single currency, without firstly balloting the membership. They are our highly paid servants, not our masters - elected to represent our interests in the workplace, not to take the platform provided by us to spout their political beliefs. These are the typical actions of subversives, gaining control democratically, then following their own agendas.

That said, I believe that we as a nation, the people who are sovereign, need concrete protection for our rights and freedoms. Our Constitution has been formed in a gradual and evolutionary way. Laws and documents, including Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights and customs and conventions are all part of it. These have never been brought together and framed in a single document - therefor, the Constitution is said to be unwritten. Many people have argued that it is because of this unwritten form that Britain's Constitution is so flexible. But, I would argue that it is precisely this flexibility that has allowed certain treacherous politicians to get away with subordinating Britain to the EU. Surely, it is high time that we had a written Constitution, that we bring together all these ancient documents in one frame? Then, it would surely be right to add a modern chapter that would deny future politicians the opportunity to make an illegal and unconstitutional covenant with a foreign power?