Monks' debut defends union role

LAWYERS do well out of trade unions and will carry on raking in business for years to come, according to the secretary general of the TUC.

But John Monks, the first TUC leader ever to speak at a Conservative Party Conference, hoped this would not always be the case.

“Lawyers should only be necessary when something has gone wrong. Good industrial relations are based on trust not litigation.

“The TUC wants a modern economy made up of profitable modern companies working in partnership with modern democratic unions. I suspect this might be bad news for this audience, but we are still some way off from that particular vision so I think there will be plenty of work for years to come,” he said.

Speaking at the Law Society fringe meeting 'Let's kill all the lawyers', he said that personal injury litigation was a major issue for trade unions with damages pay-outs currently running at u300 million a year for members.

Legal fees for unions and insurers accounted for a further u200 million.

Tories were warned by Monks to ignore unions at their peril. Voters, growing increasingly insecure in their work, were looking to unions to redress the imbalance between employer and employee.

“It cannot be good politics to continue to be seen as an anti-union party,” he said.

Nearly nine out of 10 people now believed that unions were necessary to protect one's interests at work, he said.

Monks told delegates they supported the Citizen's Charter, but when it came to rights in the workplace they had more rights “in relation to motorway cones”.