Union-busting Cabinet minister Francis Maude used a speech in Parliament yesterday to ramp up the anti-worker rhetoric but baffled onlookers by announcing nothing new.
In a Commons session billed as a statement on trade union reform in the Civil Service, Mr Maude told MPs that reps’ time off for union duties was now “rigorously monitored and reported.”
The cost of so-called “facility time” had declined by three-quarters and the number of civil servants on union duties full-time was down from over 200 to just eight, Mr Maude said.
But Labour’s Lucy Powell slammed Mr Maude for a “pre-election union-bashing exercise.
“There is absolutely nothing new in this statement today and one wonders what his motives are,” she said.
“This government doesn’t value the work you do and is hell-bent on disenfranchising you and weakening your rights at work.”
Even Commons Speaker John Bercow joined in, saying: “Well it was apparently judged worthy of an oral statement.”
And Mr Maude casually dismissed a question from Labour MP John McDonnell over what he had done to investigate evidence of a concerted strategy to undermine Civil Service union PCS in tax offices.
In a desperate shilly-shally, he accused Mr McDonnell of “mounting this attack on hard-working public servants in HMRC … those senior hard-working officials.”
A PCS spokesman said: “It was rather odd of Maude to come to the house on the pretext of an urgent statement to simply rehash arguments we’ve heard before, and it seems to us that he has wasted parliamentary time purely to have a pop at the unions.”