Trade Union Bill 27 July 2015
Trade Union Bill Overview of key changes The government has published the Trade Union Bill which contains wide-ranging measures designed to restrict the ability of unions and their members to organise collectively and take industrial action. These include thresholds for turnouts in strike ballots, restrictions on the right to picket and the removal of the ban on the use of agency workers to replace striking workers. The government is extending the role and powers of the Certification Officer (CO), who is responsible for regulating trade unions, including providing the CO with a new power to impose financial penalties on unions.
Extensive new red tape will be imposed on unions, as they will be expected to pay for the costs of existing and additional reporting requirements through a new levy which will cover the costs of the CO. Unions will be required to report annually to the CO about levels of industrial action and on how political funds have been used. Union members will also be required to opt-in every five years to any payments into a union political fund. The Bill also requires employers to report on resources allocated for facility time in the public sector, and in organisations providing public services. The government is also taking powers to impose a cap on the amount of facility time paid in each public and local authority. They will also have the power to reduce the statutory rights of trade union officials to paid time off, limiting the ability of unions to represent their members at work effectively, to negotiate improved pay and conditions and to improve access to learning and skills. In addition the Bill gives the government the power to interfere in individuals’ contracts of employment and collective agreements which provide for facility time, even though these are voluntarily agreed by public sector employers. The TUC believes that all these measures are unfair, unnecessary and undemocratic. They will undermine constructive employment relations and the civil liberties of working people in Britain.
Trade Union Bill
Timetable and consultations The government expects that the Second Reading of the Bill will take place in the House of Commons either in September or October 2015. Alongside the Bill, the government has published three consultations which focus on the definition of the ‘important services’ to be covered by the 40 per cent ‘yes vote’ requirement, regulation of picketing and protests which take place during industrial action, and plans to remove the ban on the use of agency workers during strikes. The government plans a very short consultation period (seven weeks) over the summer. Responses to the consultations will be reported to Parliament during the debate on the Bill.
Key themes The proposals will lead to a serious imbalance of power within the workplace, undermining effective negotiations between employers and unions. The Conservative proposals will undermine constructive employment relations, extending disputes and making it more difficult to achieve amicable settlements. The government is not interested in encouraging workplace democracy. Instead they want to prevent midwives, fire-fighters, teachers and cleaners working in the Underground from protesting against cuts in jobs, and pay and conditions. The right to strike and to protest are fundamental rights which should be respected in a free and democratic society. The government proposals will impose greater restrictions on trade unions than any other voluntary sector membership organisation. The Conservatives claim to be the party of working people. However, their proposals will remove employees’ ability to achieve better working conditions and living standards. Employers will be able to bring in agency workers with a view to breaking strikes, regardless of the consequences for health and safety. Trade union protests and pickets will be subject to levels of public and police scrutiny and contr