In June 2010, Unite holds its first Policy Conference since the merger between Amicus and the T&G. The tourist guides’ branch, APTG, wants regulations to protect professional standards in a hostile climate of deregulation demanded by EU competition policy.
The guides are calling for the union to “redirect policy and resources into immediate support for members campaigning and taking action for the right to work where they live and to regain control of their working lives”. They recognise that other workers across the whole spectrum of occupations face similar charges of “protectionism” as they struggle to defend their jobs and skills and the rights and safety of the public.
Working as Palace of Westminster guides during the summer, they also know that even if there were the will in Parliament (which there isn’t) to scrutinise every law that comes from Brussels, MPs are so inundated that they are forced to rubber-stamp the directives that come their way. But what really sticks in the throat is that qualified workers can be excluded from applying for jobs in their own countries while companies bring in a cheaper, and often less skilled, workforce, as at Lindsey, Staythorpe and Pembroke.
Being unregulated, APTG members have lost work for decades to foreign tour managers operating without guiding qualifications in Britain. The pro-EU union MSF did not want to hear the truth, nor did Amicus, but now with the glaring example of the exclusion of British construction engineers from contracts and the latest European rulings bullying states into amending their own agreements on collective bargaining, Unite must recognise that its pro-EU stance is incompatible with the interests of its members.
Tourist guides know from bitter experience that lobbying the unelected Commission and mounting a legal challenge to ECJ judgements is a protracted and costly process, during which time a generation of jobs and skills may be lost. Yet this is the path chosen by Unite.
The policy conference should be a chance for the union to debate the fundamentally anti-worker and anti-democratic nature of the Lisbon Treaty and of the British parliament, which, with the connivance of Unite, is united in refusing a referendum on the matter.