THE Prime Minister and the Unite union were embroiled in fresh clashes today after David Cameron said the Government will consider action to stop cases of “industrial intimidation”.
His warning came amid continuing attacks against Unite over claims that it intimidated bosses from the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland during a bitter dispute over pay and conditions, and links between a convenor and the selection of a Labour candidate in Falkirk.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron accused Labour of “ducking its responsibilities” by failing to order an investigation into claims against Unite.
The Prime Minister told MPs he was shocked by allegations that children of executives had seen “wanted” posters put through their letter boxes, while their neighbours had been told they were “evil”.
Unite claim ‘agenda’
Unite said the continuing attacks masked an agenda to “protect the rich and the powerful at the expense of working people’s right to freedom of expression”.
A union spokesman said: “Protest is about the freedom of expression. That is what David Cameron is threatening. Ordinary working people do not have the benefit of national newspapers or the floor of the Commons when it comes to expressing their views. Now it seems the Tories want to gag them.
“All Unite-organised protests have been lawful. None have breached the right of privacy. All have been conducted silently when at a place of residence. No-one, least of all children, has been intimidated. Their purpose has been to ensure that the community knows how workers are being treated and to ensure that companies act within moral parameters.
“This is not an attack on Unite. It is an attack on freedom from a government devoted to protecting the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.”
Cameron: ‘Investigate Grangemouth’
Mr Cameron has repeatedly called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to investigate the claims after Grangemouth’s owners Ineos nearly shut down the plant .
The Prime Minister has described Stevie Deans, the Unite official involved in the dispute, as a “rogue” operator after he was suspended while Ineos investigated his involvement in the row over the selection of a Labour candidate in the Falkirk constituency.
Management were looking at claims that he used company time for union business. The company threatened to close its petrochemical site but decided to keep it open after Unite accepted changes to pay, pensions and other terms and conditions. Mr Deans subsequently resigned from his job.
Today, Mr Cameron said that while Mr Miliband may not be prepared to open a fresh investigation, ministers may consider action to stop further cases of intimidation and bullying by trade union officials.
In a question to the Prime Minister, the Tory MP Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) said: “Do you agree with me that the authorities should always investigate allegations of harassment against employees and their families, including when they are allegedly involving members of the trade unions?”
Mr Cameron replied: “You are absolutely right - they are very serious these allegations of industrial intimidation. They need to be properly looked at. Because the party opposite is ducking its responsibilities, we will have to consider what we can do to look at this.
“I have to say that the leader of the Labour Party (Mr Miliband) is behaving like the mayor of a Sicilian town towards the mafia - ‘they put me in and I don’t want them to take me out’.”