by Paul Embery
Monday, 15
June 2020
Debate
07:00

When will the trade unions speak up?

by Paul Embery
Credit: Guy Smallman/Getty

It is inevitable that, as the West’s culture war thunders on, we will read yet more reports of individuals being hounded from their jobs, and in some cases forced to withdraw from public life, for saying the ‘wrong’ thing (or even, as sometimes seems to be the case these days, merely for failing to say the ‘right’ thing).

The hyper-sensitivity over issues of identity and race that already bedevilled so many of our institutions and workplaces has further intensified in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and the attendant row over statues.

There is, it seems, no room for disagreement or nuanced debate in some quarters. Those who refuse to support the Black Lives Matter movement, warts and all, are, in some cases, risking their whole careers and reputations.

This pitchfork mentality was illustrated by the affair of the local radio presenter on the Isle of Man who was suspended from his job recently for the heinous crime of challenging the concept of ‘white privilege’ in a debate with a caller. His wasn’t the first and won’t be the last such case.

Some of these injustices have been documented by the Free Speech Union — set up recently by the conservative writer Toby Young — which seems to have placed itself in the vanguard of the resistance to such madness. Good for it. But it does raise the question of why the mainstream of the British trade union movement is so silent on these matters. Why aren’t our established unions protesting against the increasingly suffocating, accusatory atmosphere which infects our workplaces, oppresses workers and, at its extreme, prohibits them from expressing legitimate views or criticisms and sanctions them if they dare to do so?

The answer, of course, is that many among today’s trade union leadership are either in the thrall of our new national religion of liberal wokedom or too petrified to challenge it for fear of incurring the wrath of the rest of the movement. So they are content to walk by on the other side while workers face ever tightening constraints on their freedoms.

Trade unions have a proud record of fighting against prejudice. They have rightly campaigned long and hard to protect workers from discrimination over their race, age, sex, disability, religion and so on. Yet when it comes to the most fundamental right — that of freedom of speech and thought — they have deserted the battlefield and allowed discrimination to flourish.

It is a symptom of the rigid orthodoxy that pervades the wider Left — one which demands diversity in everything but opinion. And it’s another reason why unions are, tragically, becoming increasingly irrelevant.

Join the discussion


  • July 13, 2020
    You do realise that those wage demands were the consequence of an inflationary crisis? Read more

  • June 15, 2020
    Good article. We all need to start the push back against the woke intolerance. The unions but also politicians and us the normal British public. Read more

  • June 15, 2020
    Most Trades Unions are in the thrall of the radical globalist left, those that they once represented are now 'beyond the pale' and have been broadly disavowed, as much for failing to revolt as for voting Tory to achieve Brexit. 'Professional' Trades Unions such as the UCU are now almost exclusively... Read more

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