UGTT banner in May Day march 2012. Photo: Amine Ghrabi (Creative Commons)
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize shows the power of social dialogue
In a very dangerous and uncertain world the awarding of the Nobel Peace prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue quartet underlines the power and resolve to settle differences by working together in a spirit of compromise and reconciliation.
The UGTT, employers, human rights groups and lawyers have established a democratic process which safeguards the fundamental principles of freedom under extremely difficult circumstances without the levels of violence seen in other countries in the region.
The UGTT not only sustained the revolution but also committed to bringing together the other partners to oversee the country’s democratic transition, and achieved a constitution which includes the separation of powers, an independent judiciary, freedom of association and the right to strike. These fundamental rights under attack in many Western countries including our own form the bedrock of a free society where ordinary people have a say, and can work together to secure justice, equality and freedom.
The UGTT and the TUC through the Yorkshire and Humber region have worked together since 2007. We have exchanged many training visits, encouraged dialogue and support for our young members and women’s groups, and been supportive of each other on many occasions. There are many examples of individual and collective bravery witnessed during the process of democratic change in Tunisia.
Trade unions and their members in the UK are now facing the introduction of the Trade Union Bill, which will attempt to restrict the peaceful activities of our unions, make it near impossible to take strike action, and restrict civil liberties in a country that champions freedom of speech, freedom of assembly as British values at their best.
Trade unions are a force for good all over the world. They stand up in the face of tyranny for social justice and equality, for democracy and peace. Stripping unions of the ability to do these things will not promote British values to the world, or help our economy provide for all.
The Tunisian quartet are a shining example to us all in the free world that dialogue, co-operation and freedom are the real winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, now is not the time to strip away workers rights, now is the time to build trade unions and social dialogue to strengthen democracy.