General Secretary

June 2008 | 01.06.2008

The Work of Eurofedop in Europe and Beyond


It was with great pride that I accepted an invitation to be present at a Eurofedop Conference, in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade.  This Conference took place a week after the Eurovision song contest and I was given a much better reception then the UK’s entry was given in the former event.

It was with a good deal of regret that I arrived in the wake of the President of the Police Officers Union being sacked by the authority’s for speaking out against the Governments policing policies.

My speech was as follows:

“It is a great privilege to once again be able to provide information to my European trade union colleagues on the situation regarding trade union rights in the UK.  It needs to be understood, that the United Kingdom was the birth place of the workers movement, but also it would be wrong to believe that having given birth to the trade union movement, that there has been anything other than a constant struggle against the forces of capital, who have always been set against workers and trade union rights.  These rights are the basis of collective bargaining, social dialogue and equality.

Further, the struggles to obtain full trade union rights – rights that are available to unions across Europe, remain an ambitious objective of all trades unions in the United Kingdom. 

The right to withdraw or restrict labour without penalty and the right to give supportive action to other unions in dispute are fundamental.”

I than gave a full and detailed historic account of the POA and the recent attacks made by the new Labour Government.

I continued:

“It should therefore, now be clear to you as a European trade unionist what the POA has faced, the attacks that have been raised against us in our history and since 1993.  It was a boast of Tony Blair that the United Kingdom has the most restrictive trade union laws in the western world. That is as true today under Gordon Brown’s new Labour Government regime as it was in 1997 when Blair made his shameful boast.

There is no actual right to strike for any trades union in the United Kingdom indeed, in 1901 following a dispute with the Railway Unions   known as the Taff Vale Ruling.

That trade unionists at this time held all the protections afforded to our brothers and sisters in European trade unions today, is something that over 100 years later that we still seek to have reinstated.

So it is with great regret that once again the POA must go on the offensive against a so called Labour Government whose birth right belongs to the unions and workers of the UK. Once again, the UK Government will find its name listed along side some of the most hostile and undemocratic states in the world.   With the help of European trade unions, Eurofedop and fellow brother and sister unions in the UK, we will take this Government to the European Court and watch them hang their heads in shame as we put forward the injustice and the unwarranted attacks that the UK Government have made against Prison Officers, by stripping away and seeking to destroy their human rights and dignity.

In conclusion, the membership, both prison and health workers, of the POA are law abiding citizens of Europe.  They are dedicated professionals doing the most difficult of jobs, in the most difficult of conditions, but where bad laws exist to attack our union the POA will break those laws.  Where it is necessary we will break them again and again to get justice for our members.  Eurofedop has been given all information as the POA position delivered since 1993.  We need the help and understanding of the European Commission and Politicians of all parties in Europe.  Many of these will wish to spread the UK Government’s views across Europe.  To the Commission I say this if you can not deliver for the POA then tell us-no excuses- to falsehoods-just tell us.

We ask for your support, your help and your comradeship during this period. 

Together we are stronger, together we will win.


Brian Caton
General Secretary