TUC launches pre-election campaign

The TUC trade union confederation has launched a GBP 1 million campaign to put employee rights at the centre of the forthcoming general election. The campaign is aimed at all parties, but is likely to be met with suspicion by the Government

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) launched its campaign to put workers' rights at the centre of the general election on 14 February 1997. The campaign, which will cost GBP 1 million, includes newspaper and cinema ads, billboards and leaflets.

According to the TUC general secretary, John Monks, "this is the most ambitious campaign attempted by the TUC since our relaunch as an independent campaigning organisation in 1994." He went on to say that the two main aims of the campaign were: to tell voters that important employee rights will be decided by the next government, and to let them know where candidates stand on these issues; and to tell candidates and their political parties that employee rights are popular with voters.

A survey carried out by the TUC indicates that voters - even Conservative voters - want to hear political parties talk far more about employee rights. The TUC will be highlighting five particular areas of employee rights:

  • the rights of those in small businesses;
  • the right to paid holidays;
  • equal rights for part-time workers;
  • dealing with low pay through a minimum wage; and
  • time off for parents.

Mr. Monks said that the TUC was not endorsing any party, nor telling people who to vote for, and that the campaign will not take sides. Rather it is "part of the TUC's long-term aim to establish a new national consensus for minimum standards and a new industrial settlement in the workplace based on social partnership".

A report in The Times newspaper asserted that the campaign would provoke the Government into accusing the TUC of failing to do no more than maintain a veneer of political integrity. Previous attempts by public sector unions such as the former NALGO and UNISON to mount campaigns on political issues without endorsing any one party led to Conservative attacks and legal challenges. Despite this, the TUC argues that not all Conservatives back the "dogmatic" position held by the Prime Minister, John Major and his deputy, Michael Heseltine. Mr. Monks said that the fact that people were asking both "surely you are just asking people to vote Labour?" and, at the same time, "is your refusal to endorse Labour a criticism of the party?" showed that the TUC is pitching the campaign exactly right in terms of neutrality.

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