There’s a headline I never expected to write and you, no doubt, never expected to read. Not at ‘Shiraz’, anyway.
But credit where it’s due, I say: last Friday these Labour MP’s defied the government to ensure Andrew Miller’s Temporary and Agency Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) bill got a second reading. Miller’s bill is scarcely revolutionary: it simply proposes that agency and temporary workers should get the same meagre rights (eg sick pay and paid holidays) as directly employed, permanent workers. It was one of the points supposedly agreed between union bureaucrats and the Labour leadership in the Warwick agreement of 2004. Disgracefully, not only has the government reneged on its Warwick promise, but it also (at the end of last year) blocked an EU Directive that would have outlawed unequal treament of temporary and agency workers (another victory for the anti-EU brigade!).
So on Friday sufficient Labout MP’s remembered their basic labour movement principles to ensure that the government and the Tories failed to scupper the bill. Even Peter Hain and the preposterous Ian McCartney voted for it. My gawd – even Prescott waddled into the lobby with the rebels on the first part of the vote (to prevent the Tories talking it out), though this mighty hero of the class struggle couldn’t quite bring himself to vote for the bill itself.
If you have a Labout MP and s/he didn’t vote for this elementary piece of common decency and fair play, get onto them pronto and find out why not!
Of course, it was the vigourous campaigning of both sections of Unite that ensured those MP’s voted the right way, and it’s encouraging to note that joint General Secretary Tony Woodley seems to be resisting Gordon Brown’s attempts to lure the unions into a commission that will delay and water down the legislation that is required.
A battle won, but not the war. We must keep up the pressure.