Falkirk MP’s outrage over knockback to ‘soldiers’ trade union’ plan

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.
Falkirk East MP Martyn Day has slammed the UK Government’s blunt rejection of a plan to improve conditions for soldiers as ‘a disgrace’.

The MP wants the Government to end centuries of established practice by allowing the creation of an Armed Forces Union, wbich he argues would end a postcode lottery on support services available for forces personnel.

However the Westminster government has rejected the idea of any such scheme out of hand.

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Defence secretary Gavin Williamson told the MP the government was happy with things the way they are.

Mr Day argues a union could consult and represent both serving and former personnel - for example on cases where support is poor or lacking altogether in some areas, but available in others.

In his reply Mr Williamson said the MoD is “satisfied the interests of members of the Armed Forces as employees are suitably represented”.

Mr Day said: “It is disgraceful that exploring the merits of creating an Armed Forces Union have been dismissed so readily; especially when there is a current shortfall of some 4,000 troops in the British Army.

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“Whilst I’m not detracting from the excellent work that Armed Forces charities do, the fact remains that past and present Service personnel are met with differing levels of support depending on what organisations are available in the areas they live or are deployed.

“Our troops deserve better services than those currently being offered by the MoD and I believe the creation of an Armed Forces Union would help in ensuring this happens by giving our troops a voice”.

Forces personnel are allowed to join civilian trade unions or professional bodies, as way of increasing their skills or to help in the process of resettlement, but are not classified as “workers” under the laws governing UK trade unions.

This means that unless the law were changed an armed forces “union” would not currently be able to act in the same way as a civilian union.

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Last year West Dunbartonshire SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes floated the idea of a representative body for the armed forces, and his party said it would study international examples where armed forces personnel have rights comparable to a trade union.

These include Australia, where the Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA) holds talks with the government about pay and pensions for troops.

However the focus is on pay and conditions - no government is thought likely to ever consider giving forces personnel the right to ballot for or take industrial action, which would be classed as mutiny.