Tuesday 20 August, 2019

Trade union movement failing, says former union leader

The current state of the country's trade union movement is being given a thumbs down from the former President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Walter Maloney.

His markdown of the industrial relations climate came on Friday while delivering the Lunchtime Lecture series of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) where he said the structure of the union movement has taken a turn for the worse in recent times.

Maloney noted during his tenure with the NUPW, union leaders made a conscious effort to build relationships with those in government as a strategy for dealing with issues affecting members. He said today's industrial relations climate has deviated greatly from this, adding the current union leaders have "soured" the relationship between the government and the union by not properly contemplating when to initiate industrial action. Maloney said while there is a time and a place for strike action, it is critical for unions to negotiate and bargain on behalf of members. 

"There is no structure of industrial relations. The most things you hear are adverserial and confrontational language - 'We gine strike' or 'We gine shut down'. How do we get from one point to the next? Marching is important... but what is more critical is being able to sit down in front of one another and dialogue so you can reach a win-win situation."

He said it appeared as if the union was attacking the senior public servants and were coming to the bargaining table with a fighting attitude.

"What you see now, sometimes it comes over as if you are attacking the senior public servants. The relationships that were there seem to have soured so much now that it appears to me that that closeness is no longer there. So you see more of this 'You need to do this' and that to me is not what you do."

Maloney said he believed the major issue affecting the structure of the trade union movement was the lack of training for those who were not properly seasoned in the procedures of the union. He said it was unreasonable for someone who "can join the union today" and, based on popularity alone, "be elected to the highest office tomorrow". 

Further to that, Maloney said there was too much infighting among the sister unions and its main representative body, The Congress of Trade Unions and Staff Associations (CTUSAB) which was being played out in public. 

"You have the trade union movement, which is supposed to be representing the working class people of the country, at odds with itself. And not only at odds with itself, at odds with itself publicly." 

He added such incidents highlight the need for the labour movement to formulate a completely new plan of action in order to remain relevant.     

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