LETTER: Criticism given to Blair is wrong in this instance

A reader discusses Tony Blair.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

Judging on the letter from Roger Allen (September 3) his involvement in trade unions is perhaps not as much as claimed, nor is his critique of Tony Blair.

As a union lay official and Branch Chair from the early 2000s to 2016, as well as a retired ACAS adviser, I can perhaps give a different, more evidential view.

Firstly, Labour has never enjoyed the same amount of support from the unions as the Tories have from corporate donors, neither does Labour always come second – three consecutive administrations from 1997 to 2010 lend the lie to that. Secondly, he may well have rejoiced at the election of Tony Blair, but his contention that Blair was forced to implement laws by the EU is entirely false.

The Blair government introduced fairer working hours and health and safety conditions through the Working Time Directive, EU inspired but blocked by the Tories from the early 90s. He implemented it in full. His administrations also introduced more effective equal opportunities for working people and minorities, as well as a minimum wage and more support for young people.

Remember Hague claiming that this would mean a million jobs lost? They weren’t. Blair also ensured that the time limit for continuous employment in claiming unfair dismissal was reduced from two years to one. I note that since 2010 this has risen again under a Tory administration. who also introduced charging for employees to make employment claims.

On trade unions, Blair introduced the 1999 Employment Relations Act, that restored many of the rights on bargaining and consultation removed by the Tories between 1979 and 1997. This act enabled the re-introduction of statutory and voluntary recognition (as a union member he may vaguely recall that), as well as the requirement for employers to share financial information in advance of pay bargaining. This and many other initiatives, including the Information and Consultation Regs 2004, gave much more leeway for unions to interact with business to greater effect.

Blair made many mistakes during his tenure, but working people had greater freedom and protection under Labour from 1997 than they ever did under Tory rule. in the 80s and early 90s. No, Roger, you and I may share the same view on fairness and industrial balance, but your jaundiced view of Blair, at least with regard to working people, is sadly wrong.

Jon Dews, Dudley

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