Fascists & trade unionsOctober 23, 2008 at 11:18 am | Posted in British Politics | 1 Comment
Aside from that peerage for Peter Mandleson, this is one of the more irritating things to happen in the House of Lords for quite a while. Back in 2002 the rail union ASLEF was taken to court by one of its members after he was expelled for being a member of the BNP. He won, and so several years later ASLEF took the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights and argued that the decision breached article 11 of the European Convention, which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”
The court ruled in ASLEF’s favour by insisting that just as individuals have a right to choose whether or not to join a trade union, so trade unions have the right to choose their members. As a consequence, the government was compelled to introduce legislation recognising this ruling, and this became Section 18 of the new Employment Bill. But then the legislation was introduced into the Lords, and they couldn’t help themselves from interfering:
Under the revised Bill, trade unions will not only find it more difficult to remove fascists but individual BNP members will actually be afforded more protection than any other trade unionist.
A legal opinion on the Lords amendments concludes: “If the revised version of section 18 comes into law, I am convinced that it will become more difficult than ever for trade unions to expel BNP members. It will also be an opportunity for the BNP to pick publicity fights with trade unions, and also to waste trade union funds.”
Whatever conflicts might exist within the trade union movement – how close should they be to the government, how strongly should they campaign on certain issues, under what circumstances should they take industrial action – at its very heart lies a commitment to equality and solidarity, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality. Since these values are anaethema to a party like the BNP, unions should have the right to say that their membership is not welcome.
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