Focused on members in febrile times

Mike Clancy · 30 July 2019

The rollercoaster ride of British politics took another dramatic turn in recent weeks with the election of Boris Johnson and the appointment of his new Cabinet.

Whatever one’s view of this new administration, it is undeniable that instability and infighting benefits nobody and is deeply frustrating for those hoping for serious policy-making focused on the challenges we face.

As a politically independent union we are committed to challenging any government or party whose policies run against the interests of members – and this government is no exception.

We are already hearing worrying noises from the prime minister’s new chief Brexit advisor about the possibility of a fresh attack on workers’ rights in the years ahead – rest assured Prospect will never allow this to go unchallenged.
In normal times, I would say that a break from politics over the summer might be good for everyone.

But these are not normal times and, while parliament winds down for the summer, the clock continues to tick inexorably towards a no deal Brexit on 31 October.

Many of our members, especially those in the civil service, are at the forefront of preparing for this and Prospect stands ready to support them through the weeks and months ahead.

At national conference last year, members expressed their total opposition to a no deal outcome and we will continue to argue and campaign against this reckless approach which could have such damaging consequences for the jobs and livelihoods of UK workers.

Of course, Brexit is not the only thing in the new prime minister’s in-tray. The recent heatwave came as a telling reminder that the UK needs to wake up to the climate challenge. We believe there must be an active role for government to play in this task, alongside industry and civil society.

I know that many members have been at the vanguard of making the case for action to protect our environment – whether it is through their work or outside of it. One of our great strengths as a union is that we embrace both environmental professionals and many of those who will be affected by a rapid decarbonisation of the economy.

This perspective has helped us to be robust both on the need for action on climate, but also on the imperative of a Just Transition for workers.

I know that many members will want to show their support for the ‘climate strike’ in September, however I must offer some words of warning.

I understand the sentiments and the urgency, but I also know that the term ‘strike’ has a specific meaning for unions which is often misunderstood by civil society.

We can only take action if we comply with extensive legal requirements that grant us immunity from being sued for inducing breach of contract. Just as important, this legislation also protects individuals who actually take the action. For these protections and immunities to apply a legitimate trade dispute must be identified with the employer.

All in all, febrile hardly does justice to the mood of the moment. But I remain confident that if Prospect stays true to its prime purpose of focusing on members, we can weather these storms and be there for them.

Mike Clancy is the general secretary at Prospect Union.