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Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Thursday, 1 March 2012

'Unions have been upstaged'

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Unions or protest groups - which is more powerful these days?

Yesterday the government made a significant u-turn on its controversial work experience scheme to remove any element of compulsion, after coming under pressure from protest groups.

In contrast, the Unite trade union was slapped down for suggesting the Olympics could be targeted by industrial action.

Nicholas Jones, a former BBC industrial correspondent, told the Today programme's Evan Davis that "unions have been upstaged by upstarts such as UK Uncut and the Right to Work."

He said that the mobilisation of a campaign like this "can really hurt employers and the government" and it is being done by young people through social network.

Labour MP John McDonnell, parliamentary convenor of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, who also chairs the Right to Work campaign pointed out that the Unite trade union supports the Right to Work campaign financially and otherwise so rather than there being a divide between the two, there is a "coalition and an alliance".

Mr McDonnell said that trades unions had been "hamstrung" by the Thatcher government but took it as a "valid point" that unions had failed to sell themselves to the private sector.

But he went on to say that those unions using the same methods as, and supporting campaign groups like, UK Uncut are "building membership".


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