Monday, November 07, 2011

The difference between local and national trade union leaders

The Gateshead Lib Dem Council group held a meeting last week with the local leaders of the GMB and Unison. It was at our invitation though we were not sure how they would react to us - and, indeed, how we would react to them. Nevertheless, we felt it was important to have a dialogue with them. I'm not at liberty to report what was said. Both sides agreed that in advance but by all counts, we found it a constructive and quite revealing meeting. I don't think I am breaking any confidences by saying the union leaders were pleased to be invited. Both sides had differences and these were aired but generally speaking, we found that discussing these differences, as well as the common ground, was a useful exercise.

A couple of days later, the Government made an offer to the unions over public sector pension reform. I was struck by the significant differences between Brendan Barber's posturing and the approach taken by the local trade union leaders we met. Barber was highly dismissive, and loving the limelight whilst parading around as the union boss to whom everyone had better listen, or else. Yet those union leaders who have to work at the chalk face seem to have a better grasp on reality than the barons based in London who probably think a reality check is something paid into the bank account of someone who appears on a so-called reality show.

And whilst I disagree with some of the views of the local trade union leaders, at least they don't seem to think they are the thrusting alternative leadership of the Labour "movement" filling the gap at the top which Ed Moribund is failing to occupy.
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