Thirty years ago today (Saturday) people working in the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham were banned from belonging to a union by the Thatcher government.
Commenting on the anniversary of the ban – which, following extensive union campaigning, was overturned in 1997 – TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“Back in 1984 Margaret Thatcher decided it wasn’t possible for someone to be in a union and be loyal to their country. GCHQ employees were denied their basic rights and could no longer have the protection of a union at work. Fourteen workers who refused to give up their union membership cards were unceremoniously sacked.
“Years of union campaigning followed, with an annual march taking place in the town every January. Thankfully the ban was consigned to history almost as soon as Labour took office in 1997. But while the world has moved on since the 1980s, attacks on unions and their ability to fight for justice and fairness at work, are sadly still with us.
“Facility time – the time that union reps use to try to solve problems at work and win improved conditions for their workmates – has been severely curtailed across government departments following a decision imposed by the Cabinet Office.
“Meanwhile the Lobbying Bill will force unions to reveal the names of union members following any complaint from an employer and unions will also have to appoint external auditors to look over their membership lists. All of which is likely to compromise membership confidentiality, which is protected in law.
“People who belong to unions had previously thought that their membership details were a matter of private record between them and their union. Now they are concerned that their details could soon be visible to a range of third parties.”