Monks backs poverty pay

Union leaders are falling obediently behind Labour, but Labour is no answer for workers

THE MINIMUM wage is one area where Tony Blair has not had things all his own way - yet. The policy of accepting the European Union’s social chapter commitment was one he inherited from the former leadership, and cannot easily be ditched altogether. So Blair has attempted to ‘limit the damage’.

Last week he argued: “ ... How can we here and now, without knowing the economic circumstances ... , fix a figure?” (The Guardian July 27). Like the Tories, Labour gives the requirements of capitalism absolute priority over workers’ needs. The Tories have made it plain that British capital cannot afford any fixed minimum figure, while Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is intent on making it so low as to be all but worthless.

And what of those dedicated fighters for the working class, the TUC leaders? They are committed to the ludicrously low £4.15 an hour - far short of the £275 a week workers actually need. Yet TUC general secretary John Monks has been beavering away, trying to bring the unions in line with Labour’s thinking: it would “cause real difficulties if some unions sought to commit the Labour leadership to a policy that the leadership had already said they would reject”.

Forget fighting for union members - concentrate on throwing all your support behind a party determined to hammer them every bit as hard as the Tories.

But his efforts have already paid dividends. That hero of the left, Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, has ‘reluctantly’ accepted that Labour will not name a figure before the general election.

Monks continued: “Risks for the TUC and unions are great, perhaps as serious as at any time since 1978/79.”

He is referring to the Winter of Discontent, when workers took mass strike action against the only post-war government which had succeeded in reducing their living standards - a Labour government.

Peter Manson