Sunday, 6 April 2008

Union Busting - US Style


A useful article in today's Observer gives us an update on the activities of the notorious US-based Burke Group (TBG). Already well know to the GMB and TGWU for example through high profile intimidatory tactics at Kettle Crisps, their potential growth in the UK should be a real worry to all trade unionists.

Have a look at the article:

Then see how they promote themselves to employers:

Although their list of 'beliefs' are laughable, the central concern for us has to be the way in which recognition law currently allows employers to challenge recognition agreements in a variety of ways not least low density.

Can you foresee your employer challenging your agreement and employing the services of an outfit like Burke?




Jenni said...


Definitely. My employer is always referring to how close they are to being able the challenge the agreement based on the low level of membership.

Ironically though, its the number of membeers cases and negotiating around problems they cause that means they never get around to discussing it properly!

Thats why the Burke group stuff on beliefs is rubbish. Unions are in demand because employers dont treat workers with respect and dont communicate with them.

Thanks for posting this item as reps need to know what's possibly around the corner.


GT said...


Looking back at what the last person has said a critical issue for the movement is the way that we support trade union organisation in the workplace.

A key worry for me, particularly in my union, is that the overriding focus is on recruitment (of new members) not organising (of existing ones). It's not a wonder that we are exposed under recogniton law.

I tend to agree with what has been said before though. British employers have caused the existence and continuity of trade unions - if they change then maybe we become redundant; it's highly unlikely!


John said...

Hi Ian,

Can I ask a favour please? I'd like to add mention of your new posts to the blog aggregator for unions' and union activists' blogs at

It's aimed at building community and traffic for union blogs, and hopefully getting more union people out of the woodwork and blogging. Around 85 union blogs so far.

Would you mind if I include your blog? It will scan it every hour or so for new posts and then add the title, opening sentence and link to a list which people can subscribe to by RSS, letting them directly into your blog's latest story.

If you're happy with this idea, could you please let me know (and any other comments) at ?

Cheers, John

Ian Manborde said...

Hi John,

Absolutely. As you can see my blog is only visited currently by a hardened few trade union activists who I haven't sufficently turned away from the idea of using the Web for supporting activism.

So, any additional ways in which I can support the work of fellow activists is very much welcomed.

Best wishes


John said...

Cheers Ian! hope it's useful to you too. John

Ian Manborde said...


Although I have not yet added Tigmoo to my list of links can I encourage you to visit this site in order to access a collection of labour and trade union-related blogs.



Val said...

Hi Ian,

Not heard of Tigmoo before - what does that Tigmoo mean?

Anyway will give it a look and let you know what I think.

Had a look at some TU related blogs before but the only problem is what happens if you put a note on a blog of some odd sod who isn't well liked by your union or the TUC - bang goes your chances of a job or election to the EC!

I know it shouldn't go on, but this is the real world of trade unions.


Val K

Ian Manborde said...


Sadly you are right.

Many of the unions I work with have unwritten, yet well established rules, on what can and cannot be said about internal union affairs and politics generally without their being some impact on that colleague's progress in relation to advancement within union structures.

Indeed as a teacher for Ruskin College I have been approached previously about my politial credentials and the extent to which they accord with that particular union's political perpsective.

It is, sadly, one of the many issues you are careful of discussing with activists even though it is wholly legitimate to discuss the impact of local, national, European and international policitical activity as it affects UK workers.

When working for trade unions I often feel I am working in a twilight zone.