On 15 July 2015, the Government’s Trade Union Bill was introduced to Parliament. The Bill contains a wide range of restrictions on trade union freedom, new restrictions on the right to organise, the right to facilities at the workplace, and the right to bargain collectively. It also introduces new restrictions on both the right to strike, and trade union political freedom, while exposing trade union administration to unjustified levels of scrutiny.
The provisions of the bill includes:
— banning strikes in most public services unless first, at least 50% of those participating in the proposed action vote in the ballot, and second, at least 40% of those affected also support the action;
— allowing employers to hire agency staff during strikes;
— requiring ballots to be re-run every four months, and setting a minimum two weeks’ notice for any industrial action;
— criminalising unlawful or ‘intimidatory’ picketing rather than treating it as a civil offence, and requiring a union official to oversee such pickets and ensure that they abide by the law, for instance, that no more than six strikers are present and introduces fines of up to £20,000 on unions if pickets do not wear an official armband
— limiting the amount of time that your representatives can spend on union business;
— giving the government trade union certification officer powers to fine unions up to £20,000 for breaches of reporting rules which will include an annual audit of its protests and pickets.
In addition, the Trade Union Bill requires unions to contact each union member directly to ask if they want to pay into the political levy, and to repeat the question every five years. A requirement to opt in to the political levy is likely to dramatically reduce the number of members paying it.
Public sector unions have been particularly focused on, as a part of a strategy to suppress organised resistance to the privatisation of services and to eliminate any meaningful bargaining over pay, terms and conditions, allowing cuts to wages, pensions and staff.
What to do:
— Lobby and rally Monday 2nd November, Westminster
— Write to your MP – you can use this model letter — Contact local media
— Run a stall
— Spread the word online
Thanks to Stockport NUT’s Dawn Taylor for producing these resources. If you would like a copy for your school meetings, which includes presentation notes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.