From the TUC

Trade Unions Bill: Unfair, unnecessary and undemocratic

15 Jul 2015, by in Politics

Today the government will publish its Trade Unions Bill – a grossly unfair package of measures that will tip the balance of power in the workplace.

The proposals will make getting a much-needed pay rise, stopping job losses or negotiating better conditions at work much more difficult. They’ll make it harder for unions to do their day-to-day job of dealing with problems in the workplace before they escalate into disputes. And they’ll stifle protests against cuts to public services, like closures of SureStart centres, libraries and care services.

It’s a strange choice for the party that wants to position itself as the workers’ champion. Not measures to tackle exploitation at work or boost productivity, but an unnecessary attack on workers’ rights and civil liberties.

It’s also a strange choice of priority with the economic recovery still fragile. Ask anyone running a business and it’s unlikely that messing about with trade union laws will be on their wish-list of things the government could do to help.

The thresholds for industrial action ballots have made the headlines, but even when ballots meet the government’s new rules, the bill will allow employers to break strikes by bringing in agency workers. It’s a recipe for chaos – agency workers will be put in a difficult position, and the delicate balance of industrial relations will be irrevocably tipped in favour of employers. Decent employers and agencies are likely to want to keep well away.

The proposals are also expected to restrict and police union members’ rights to peacefully picket. At a time when police resources are already badly stretched, it’s hard to think of a bigger waste of time and public money than looking to lock up peacefully protesting teachers, midwives and cleaners.

If ministers were serious about improving workplace democracy they would instead let workers vote online. In an era of online banking, safe and secure online balloting is a common sense option.

Instead, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the government is determined to weaken trade unions so that they can attack rights, pay and conditions for all workers. Collective bargaining works because both sides have some power – that’s why the vast majority of negotiations result not in strikes but in a deal being reached. And collective bargaining benefits union members and non-members alike.

We will oppose these draconian proposals. Our country has a proud tradition of liberty and democracy – and trade unions are central to that. This year, as we mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, that heritage is as important as ever. Our aim is clear: to stop this unfair, unnecessary legislation getting onto the statute books.

20 Responses to Trade Unions Bill: Unfair, unnecessary and undemocratic

  1. Dave Leonard
    Jul 15th 2015, 9:18 am

    This Vicious corrupt evil government will creat an even wider gap between the poor and the wealthy….

  2. Mehdi Husaini
    Jul 15th 2015, 10:25 am

    Another attack & curb the trade union rights to strike. The Govt should do the same if MPs don’t get 50% votes of electorate then they are not elected

  3. Geoff Reynolds
    Jul 15th 2015, 11:34 am

    We heading back a few hundred years to the Tory Rule where we non mine or mill owners are just fodder for the owners. Who can use and abuse us at their leisure. Welcome to Tory Britain in the 21 st Century. .

  4. Andy Cooper
    Jul 15th 2015, 1:58 pm

    Whilst I am as appalled as any worker about this, I am unsure as to what can be done to address it. The current Tory government, the last ConDem coalition government and the previous Labour government have all stated that whilst they uphold the right to democratic protest they will not allow such democratic process to sway them. If democracy is no longer a route to change, what is left? I shudder to think. The democratically organised citizens of Britain need a way to affect government policy and by extension life in the workplace. I have no clue how to get this back now it has been made clear to everyone that protest is pointless. We need a plan and guidance from our trades unions and the TUC, but I fear such will not be dramatic and forceful enough and/or will not gather enough active support to achieve anything. After all, the recent massive anti-war and anti-austerity protests appear to have changed very little if anything. I fear we will all have to live through the planned return to archaic workplace practices and the subjugated work and social lifestyle for some time before an appetite to change it becomes implacable. Not easily envisaged within my working lifetime. Britain is, for me, an increasingly disappointing environment to try to succeed in.

  5. bert clough
    Jul 15th 2015, 3:08 pm

    The gross unfairness of imposing a 40% hurdle of all employees voting for public sector industrial action ballots can be seen in The Scotland Act 1978. It included a requirement for a “post-legislative” referendum to be held in Scotland to approve the Act’s coming into force. During its passage through Parliament, a wrecking amendment introduced by George Cunningham (an anti-devoltionist Scot who represented an English seat) added a further requirement that the approval at the referendum be by 40% of Scotland’s total registered electorate, rather than by a simple majority. 52% voted at the referendum in favour of an Assembly, However, as this total represented only 33% of the registered electorate as a whole devolution had to be abandoned. That’s democacy for you!

  6. John
    Jul 16th 2015, 2:55 am

    Just a passing thought (compared to the other concerning comments above), have any of your government cabinet members any experience in a work environment of collective bargaining, managing industrial relations, formal management unión negociations, etc; or is their style of leadership ‘you will only do this, you will only do that’ the authortarian shape of your work future? It is the only message they know, if you do not conform you are out!

    Almost leading towards a government autocracy in the hands of a few.

    Thankyou for this article Frances O’Grady.

  7. Eric Segal
    Jul 16th 2015, 12:02 pm

    This Bill represents a significant attack on the working class whether in or out of work. Trade unions are the front line of our defence and we need a clear unequivocal response to the Bill. Whilst the demo outside the conservative conference is a step in the right direction I am already picking up comments like “not another demonstration” and when are we going to do something that the Tories listen to. There is an ongoing call from significant numbers of our members of various unions at shop floor level calling for a 24 hour general strike. The tuc does not heed this call at its peril.

  8. Strikes at historic low level
    Jul 16th 2015, 1:08 pm

    […] should therefore question why the government wants to waste time legislating on this with the Trade Union Bill when there are many more pressing priorities – like improving skills and productivity at […]

  9. John
    Jul 16th 2015, 1:26 pm

    In a Reply to your comment, please see the New Economics Foundation e mail which came out today:

    I hope this in some way positively helps.

  10. Strike figures show there’s no justification for the Trade Union Bill | STRONGER UNIONS
    Jul 16th 2015, 1:40 pm

    […] There’s no way that current low levels of industrial action can be used to justify the significant clampdown on people’s democratic rights that’s contained in the Government’s Trade Union Bill. […]

  11. handley thomas.
    Jul 16th 2015, 2:14 pm

    the tory party has never been the champions for working people,they surpport the well off and corperate management structures that encourage low wages and longer hours,every working man/woman must wake up to what is happening befor it,s too late..surpport your unions stand up for your rights

  12. Elizabeth Bowron
    Jul 17th 2015, 9:38 am

    This Government is only interested in themselves and their fat cat supporters. It is a disgrace that they are going to get a 10% pay rise when ordinary working people are getting next to nothing. The sooner we get them out the better.

  13. Government takes a swipe at Safety Representatives | STRONGER UNIONS
    Jul 17th 2015, 11:36 am

    […] of work that seems to have “spite” written all over it. There have been lots of really good blogs on this site about it so I am not going to repeat these. I just want to point out what the […]

  14. Eric Segal
    Jul 17th 2015, 6:35 pm

    Well John, I took your advice and read the New Economics Foundation email and looked for some positive help. None arrived!
    The tuc has on the table a proposition calling for the general council to consider the issue of the 24 general strike. We wait & wait & wait for the result of their deliberations. Working class people are dying due to the ferocity of austerity cuts whether in health or welfare. For example in South East Kent there are 3 vacancies for neurologists which are not even being advertised by the trust due to funding issues causing distress and significant problems for patients and families.
    This can be replicated across the country. The tuc has a responsibility to stand up for the 6 million trade unionists it represents.

  15. Vince Butler
    Jul 19th 2015, 9:30 am

    Laying the foundations to come back a little later to get your pensions…!
    The legislation, militarised police, water cannon (yes they will be used never mind what Theresa May just said) and plain simple ideology – they are coming for your pensions and you won’t be able to do a thing about it!
    Please wake up and see what is happening here.

  16. Mumtaz
    Jul 30th 2015, 2:47 pm

    It Just shows no matter how much we try the government is still powerful and can overturn anything that they feel doesn’t benefit them, they should value and appreciate all the honest hardworking people who sacrifice so much to work in this coutry , pay thier taxes and contributions, which i may add pays the MP’s salaries which is automatically increased, yet they haven’t the decency to support our rights, we have to fight for equality and every penny we earn, Please dont go back to the middle ages and undo all the hard work Union do.

  17. Government’s union membership changes are aimed at undermining public service workers’ rights
    Aug 6th 2015, 1:03 pm

    […] Trade Union Bill keeps getting bigger as the Government find more ways they can rebalance power away from the […]

  18. The ghost of check-off past – Danny Alexander returns to haunt Matt Hancock
    Aug 7th 2015, 2:27 pm

    […] Minster Matt Hancock MP took everyone by surprise with today’s last-minute addition to the Trade Union Bill. In revealing plans to abolish check-off (the process by which employers deduct union subscriptions […]

  19. Don’t let employers use agency temps to break strikes | STRONGER UNIONS
    Aug 11th 2015, 11:04 am

    […] on employers using agency workers to break strikes, alongside other restrictive measures in their Trade Union Bill. The new measures will make the fundamental right to strike almost […]

    Sep 12th 2015, 11:37 am

    Trade unions are central to our country’s proud tradition of liberty and democracy. Over the centuries, workers who organised themselves into unions have fought corporate power to give us the weekend, the eight-hour day, paid holidays, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave and pretty much every other working right we now enjoy.