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British union's vote -- not a coup

By Fred JonesSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 9, 1981



London

Reports of a right-wing coup at the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference at Blackpool Sept. 7 have been greatly exaggerated. The vote, to change the method of electing the governing general council of the congress, was bound to be seen as a right-wing coup at a time when almost everyone has come to believe that both the labor movement and the Labour Party in Britain are dominated by the left.

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The Aug. 7 vote did add an important change in the way the trade unions run their affairs, and it might well be seen as a coup from the right because quite a few right-wing unions were involved in it.

But it is truer to say that it was a protest against the archaic structure of the TUC.

The present structure was created by traditional blue-collar unions. The rights of white-collar unions were not allowed for in the TUC's structure, and the spectacular increase in white-collar union membership in the past 20 years has unbalanced the structure.

Two large and growing white-collar unions, representing banking, insurance, clerical, and computer staffs, have become more and more aggrieved at not being represented on the TUC general council.

It was this that provoked the "coup."

But in solving their own problems these unions have created problems for many other sections of the TUC.

This new formula is cearly as unacceptable as the old one. But the TUC general council will have to try to work out a way to implement it.