Dr Spencer Pitfield OBE is director of Conservative Trade Unionists.
Under the visionary leadership of our President, Rt. Hon. Rob Halfon MP, the Conservative Trade Unionists (CTU) was established with support of the Party Board in the autumn of 2015.
Known by our supporters as ‘Tory Workers’, our CTU mission is to reach out to all workers and trade unionists in our country. We are committed to show that it is the Conservative Party today, not Labour, which understands ordinary peoples’ concerns and cares about the rights of workers.
Indeed, the coming together of working people, seeking material betterment, independence and the provision of services on a pooled basis, is entirely consistent with a Conservative view of civil society.
In Theresa May we have a leader who, like the CTU, cares passionately about social justice, fairness and opportunity of aspiration for all. What is sometimes termed ‘Blue Collar Conservatism’ was front and centre when the Prime Minister spoke at Number 10 on her first formal day in office and said, “It means we believe in a union not just between nations…but between all of our citizens – every one of us – whoever we are and wherever we’re from.”
We are all aware that finding and engaging with new members in the Conservative Party is a challenge – as is for any political party. People today choose to engage with politics in different ways, and for different reasons, than in the past.
In not too dissimilar a way, many trade unions are suffering decreasing membership (not all of course, before I am corrected!). Unions need to adjust quickly to a society in flux, offering members even better ‘services’ that foster individual responsibility and independence from the state, such as medical and legal insurance, tax advice and retail discounts.
The one thing I know having led the CTU for the last ten months is that many hard-working Britons today are in search of structured and formalised Conservative support in their workplace. They long for a Conservative trade union for working people, which is moderate and non-militant. A Conservative trade union which provides a responsible vehicle in the workplace which represents all workers and their views, day-to-day, actually on the shop floor.
And so I say to all colleagues in our Party today that the time is now right to establish a new trade union – the Conservative Trade Union.
The Conservative Trade Union – affiliated to the Conservative Party but not funding the Conservative Party – would aspire to offer formalised general representation for its members across all sectors.
An example of a trade union, operating in a highly successful and dynamic fashion is the Prospect Union. The Prospect Union’s modernity and clear focus on how best to serve its members today – and not what should be done based on the past – is to be hugely commended.
I can already hear the calls of derision for such an idea. This will not be the first, or indeed the last time I and other CTU colleagues have experienced significant ‘push back’ for such a proposal.
But I am in no doubt that the establishment of a Conservative trade union is the natural further extension of our Party’s desire to better represent working people and workers’ rights now in the 21st Century.
It is exactly that desire to support and help working people in our country today which has recently led to the proposal for employees not only to join but to help lead company boards. A truly ground-breaking and socially progressive policy, which when initiated will place ordinary employees central to the leadership tasked with delivering success for their company and workers.
Of course, a Conservative trade union could not be established without the support of the Party – formal agreement would need to be sought, not least because there would be initial ‘start-up’ costs but also as the new union would need to be named. AboveI referred to the Conservative Trade Union but I have no doubt that our new union would seek to carry a bold and progressive title – it would be for members to engage with such a naming process.
Once up and running, the Conservative Trade Union would of course be self-funding – with members paying a monthly subscription to cover services offered. Significantly, I am sure that such a moderate union would garner many thousands of new members over time – members who wouldn’t normally perhaps see the benefit of joining the Conservative Party – thus thereby greatly broadening the Party’s appeal and national reach. Am I being too optimistic that over time our new Conservative Trade Union could have tens of thousands of members, across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom?
We live in truly dramatic political times. I believe now is the time to be bold and make sure we as a Party grasp the huge opportunity before us to make sure we cement our one nation compassionate Conservative credentials for all working people.
Now is the time for the establishment of the Conservative Trade Union.