In defence of trade unions


Our former Branch Secretary, Alex Knutsen, has written to the Argus in response to the new pier owner’s call to “smash unions.”

Dear Editor,

My immediate reaction to reading The Argus report that quoted Luke Johnson, Palace Pier owner, stating he “wanted the Government to smash the rail unions”, was one of anger. I looked on the Argus Comments page and was heartened that so many shared my view that Mr Johnson ought to, politely (or not!) keep his mouth shut.

Then, I considered the more thoughtful comments, that he was out to get a bit of free publicity, that strong Unions have a proper role in society, and that rather than “smashing” them, a lot of the anti-union legislation should be repealed.

In addition, I thought about my involvement with staff employed on the Palace/Brighton Pier over 40 years as a UNISON representative (before Mr Johnson bought it) – a tale of poor wages, no wages, dangerous safety issues, bullying, sexual harassment – in fact, you name it, it happened.

I hope Mr Johnson see’s a role for trade unions in sorting out those kind of matters – the managers didn’t, and tried everything (unsuccessfully) to stop us. So, I look forward to him welcoming my professional, experienced, colleagues to help resolve the next issue on the pier when it arises.

Most of all, as a co-sponsor, with the Chamber of Commerce, UNISON invites Mr Johnson to “sign-up” to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage, which is set at a rate that takes into account the high level of living costs in Brighton and Hove, and which 300 other local businesses apply (all reporting good staff retention, increased productivity, etc.)

I look forward to meeting Mr Johnson, when he wishes, to discuss this (I can be contacted via the UNISON Office at Brighton Town Hall), including an implementation date from when all the employees on the Pier, will be paid the LW rate. And, when we have agreement, we can issue a joint press release, to get him some more positive publicity, than “smash the Unions.” How about it, Mr Johnson?

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