Bullying is a serious issue in Britain. One that deserves prominent attention in the mainstream media. But while the Tories promote bullying as a way of life, or as a means of waging class warfare against the rest of us, socialists have a long and proud tradition of actively opposing bullies.
A recent YouGov poll determined that nearly a third of people are bullied at work, with women suffering disproportionately. Shockingly, results from the poll showed that more than one in three people leave their job as a result of bullying, while, on a less surprising note, in nearly three-quarters of cases the bullying is carried out by a manager.
One of the primary ways that people can help reduce bullying in society is by joining a union, as tackling bullying, harassment and discrimination is a bread and butter issue for an active workplace rep. Another central way in which individual workers can reduce incidents of bullying in their own workplaces is by demanding that their bosses engage in collective bargaining agreements with their union of choice.
Tory politicians and their Tory business friends, however, recognise the very real threat that a unionised workforce poses to their bullying ways. This is why they harass and demonise trade unions at every opportunity and why, on principle, they are opposed to collective bargaining with their employees (or as they would have it, serfs). This also explains why, by contrast, Jeremy Corbyn has said “it should be mandatory for all large employers, with over 250 staff, to bargain collectively with recognised trade unions.”
Unprincipled ‘socialists’, particularly those who dominate the Parliamentary Labour Party and who boast about the need for deposing the democratically elected leader of their own party are not always so keen to oppose bullying.
Indeed, much like Bullingdon Club bully David Cameron, for many Labour MPs bullying is accepted as a legitimate means of getting their own way, and like any successful bully their first defence is to always accuse their victims of wrongdoing. So, working in close collaboration with the largely Tory-owned corporate media, a string of Labour MPs have come forward with their own tales about suffering abuse at the hands of Corbyn and his “Nazi stormtroopers.”
It is perhaps to be expected that most of the New Labour remnants, which still dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party, have rarely acted to support workers and trade unions faced with off against draconian bullying bosses. Afterall, many of these same Labour MPs sat by while New Labour failed to repeal the Tories anti-trade union laws, and then allowed Tony Blair to boast about Britain having the most restrictive trade union legislation in Western Europe – laws which Corbyn has vigorously opposed for decades!
Even when a high-profile incident of workplace bullying by a major supporter of the Tories is exposed, many of those same Labour MPs, who seem so willing to harass Labour Party members backing Corbyn, are reluctant to side with the working class. A perfect example of this is provided by Samworth Brothers – a large and handsomely profitable food manufacturer based in Leicestershire, whose most famous products are their pies (both Ginsters and Melton Mowbray Pork Pies).
On July 7, an important Early Day Motion 295 was tabled in Parliament which condemned the dismissal of Kumaran Bose by the management at Samworth Brothers as being:
an act of victimisation against a trade union activist for raising concerns about reductions in overtime, premium and weekend payments following the introduction of the national living wage.
The motion explained how:
the company’s director Mark Samworth has donated well over half a million pounds to the Conservative Party since 201.
And also pointed out how the Samworth management had dismissed Kumaran on the “spurious allegations of bullying his managers”, despite Kumaran’s “unblemished 12-year record of employment for the company”.
Like many Tory firms, despite more than half of the workers at Kumaran’s factory in Leicester having recently joined the Bakers Union (BFAWU), Samworth Brothers “has refused a voluntary recognition agreement” with the union – in fact, they actively oppose it. Therefore, the parliamentary motion concluded by stating that:
Notwithstanding the company’s denials, the dismissal of Mr Bose fits a wider pattern of victimisation of trade unionists working for Samworth Brothers; and calls for the immediate reinstatement of Mr Bose, an end to the victimisation of other trade union activists, and for the company to agree to recognise the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union.
As mentioned at the start of this article, challenging workplace bullying is a staple of the broader Labour movement. But tellingly an active commitment to this progressive history is not something that immediately grabs the attention of most business-minded Labour MPs. So far, only ten MPs have signed this parliamentary motion, seven of which are Labour members, and only one of whom (Jon Ashworth) is based in Leicester.
Leicester’s two other Labour MPs, Keith Vaz and Liz Kendall, have both chosen to advise their political allegiances by refusing to sign the motion.
Surely if all the many Labour MPs who have been united in accusing Corbyn and his supporters of bullying over the past year were really concerned about stamping out bullying they would have jumped at the chance to sign up to this parliamentary motion? Unfortunately, they have not, which leads one to question whether such MPs are really interested in opposing bullying, or whether they just want to misappropriate the Labour movement’s proud progressive history in a vain attempt to besmirch the good name of those people (like Corbyn) with a long unblemished record of fighting for equality and justice.