Hitchin Oughton Councillor Frank Radcliffe reports on the recent full council meeting on 26 November 2015 where motions on the Syrian refugee crisis, the Trade Union Bill and TTIP were debated.
At Thursday's full council meeting the Tory led council backed a Labour Party motion to house fifty Syrian refugees, although they made some slight amendments to the original motion. They decided they did not want to work with Herts. Welcomes Syrian Families which bemuses me, as I believe the group is helping other local councils. And I would welcome support from all corners, not just local groups.
Our other two motions on the Transatlantic Trade and Industry Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade Union Bill (TU Bill) were unanimously voted against by the Tory group, despite Labour members putting a strong case forward for each motion. It was apparent many of the Tories had not heard of TTIP, yet Cllr Levett wanted to have the motion ruled out as he felt it was speculative and was not something he felt was a risk to NHDC. It seems like they want this to become legislation before they do a risk assessment - a bit like deciding that you will send your kids to school without checking the route beforehand. Let's hope they don't have too many dangerous roads to cross on the slippery slope known as TTIP! One Tory councillor even suggested that we may not have to worry about TTIP, as we may not be in Europe if it is passed as EU legislation. I don't think he realises that it might be easier for the US to foist it upon the UK if we leave Europe. So, to sum up, the Tories voted against this secretive proposal without doing their research. To take a leaf out of Jeremy Corbyn's book, I raised this motion on behalf of two North Herts. residents. The Tories tried to say this was not in the public interest. Clearly it is, and they will be responsible for the potential damage TTIP will cause to our community and businesses if this agreement is passed and they haven't at least done a preparatory risk assessment.
The motion on the TU Bill was passionately moved by Cllr Adrian Smith, who highlighted the great work carried out by the movement and how good industrial relations were within NHDC. He highlighted the unfair practice laid out in the Bill, whereby the Council will be banned from deducting union fees at source and the thresholds for strike ballots. The leader of the Council, in my opinion, patronised the members of the Council trade unions by moving an amendment to the motion by inserting the word CAN into the first part of the motion so it read Council notes the positive contribution that trade unions CAN make in our workplaces. She then decided that the second part of the motion which read supports the campaign against the Trade Union Bill - was voted on separately. The Tories and Lib Dems then voted unanimously against this second motion but stood by their amendment which on its own is just a statement. I stated that inserting the word CAN in the amendment was a slap in the face to all the six and a half million trade union members nationwide, and that the benefits they have fought and won, including the minimum wage and maternity/paternity pay amongst many others, was evidence that they do make a positive contribution to our workplaces. Councillor Bernard Lovewell stated that he was always in a trade union when he worked, but criticised members of unions working for London Transport who went on strike. He failed to suggest any other way of resolving disputes in the workplace once negotiations had broken down. Withdrawal of labour is a last resort and the number of days lost to strike action at NHDC was minimal. As a trade unionist myself, I wonder how one can remain a member of a trade union without standing in solidarity with your colleagues when faced with cuts, redundancies, and threats to your terms and conditions. This motion shows the Tories in their true light. They have all the power and the only power the worker had was to withdraw labour. The vote shows that the Tory council CAN value the trade unions at NHDC, as long as they don't have the temerity to withdraw their labour. Well, under their government, who are cutting funding to local councils, the Council needs the support of the trade union members more than ever.