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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Blair 'yet to deliver' on work rights
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber
Barber: Unions not a "problem"
New TUC boss Brendan Barber has criticised the government for being too ready to listen to employers "bleating" about red tape.

In his first speech to congress since becoming TUC general secretary, Mr Barber said unions had a responsibility to tell the government when it had "got it wrong".

He said headlines about spats between the government and unions were only part of the picture - a lot had been achieved for employment rights since Labour had won power.

But he warned: "The government has still failed to deliver all the fairness at work we demand.

I say to ministers, the stakes are very high. That's why I say to the government, work with us - win the support of the workforce
Brendan Barber
TUC general secretary
"The government is still too ready to believe employers bleating about so-called red tape."

Mr Barber also criticised the way the government was going about its public sector reforms arguing they were often "imposed on public servants rather than managed with them".

"If the increased funding they are pumping in - funding to provide for 400,000 new public servants - if that fails to deliver visible improvements they will pay a devastating political price," he argued.

"But it wouldn't be just the government that pays the price - it would be everyone who believes in public services.

"The right-wing idealogues would take us in a very different direction."

No problem?

Mr Barber said it was now time for a new chapter in union and government relations adding that he hoped the public services forum - agreed with the prime minister last week - would be a "new way of working together".

"I say to ministers, the stakes are very high. That's why I say to the government, work with us - win the support of the workforce."

He warned Tony Blair not to treat unions as a "problem, something to be squared for the conference season".

Mr Barber also used his speech to pay tribute to his predecessor as general secretary, John Monks.

"John gave wonderful service to the TUC and the working people of this country. He gave outstanding leadership to our movement."

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Whichever way the debate turns out, the unions are back on the Government's radar"

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