New Statesman: A year is a long time in industrial relations

Peter Wilby, New Statesman 21 Feb 2008:

“So can we revive workplace democracy? Compass, the democratic-left pressure group, thinks we can and must. In a pamphlet to be published shortly …Â it argues that it is “unacceptable” that “we can be masters of our destiny in all aspects of our lives except in terms of our relationship with our employers”. I would go further: under a government that argues we must all find redemption through work, it is preposterous…”

All very reasonable stuff that you’d expect to read in the New Statesman. But what’s this in Press Gazette 12 Jan 2009?

“the NUJ today criticised New Statesman for failing to recognise the union – despite being formed in 1913 “with the aim of permeating the educated and influential classes with socialist ideas”, and being part-owned by Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson.

Sue Harris, NUJ national organiser for magazines, said: “Given the editorial stance of the publication we were astounded by their response.

“We will now start the statutory procedure to gain recognition which we are confident of winning because we have more than ninety percent union membership in our proposed bargaining unit.””

Now I’ve not read the Statesman for a while – to tell the truth I find it a bit tedious and over recent years it’s had a load of leader articles that have turned me off as soon as I saw the cover on the bookstand. I’d actually choose the Spectator over it any day – you might know you won’t be able to stomach any of the opinions, but it’s at least engagingly written. The only thing going for the Statesman was its principles – or so I thought.

Luckily the thorough shaming the Statesman have had in the last couple of days seems to have dragged them to negotiate, and we could after all see the NUJ chapel that everyone would expect to be there. If you want to add your face to the calls to keep them honest during negotiations, try this NUJ Facebook group.

And so back to Peter Wilby again:

“With recession approaching, workplace democracy may well be regarded as a distraction. But we have seen the weaknesses of unregulated capitalism. The thought may seem a fanciful one, but if Northern Rock had been compelled to explain and justify its business strategy to the workforce, it might not now be in such dire straits.”

I couldn’t put it better. If finances are getting tight and they want me (and I imagine quite a lot of unionists) to buy their mag again, they know what to do.

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