The Government have unveiled their Trade Union Bill, which is far more vicious than first trailed and is an extension and deepening of anti-union laws. It is absolutely essential that Napo joins with all other trade unions in opposing these laws
The proposals include measures, in effect, to criminalise union representatives who organise picket lines but they go far beyond this in restricting the ability of unions to carry out their basic functions.
At the moment it is a civil offence to go outside the guideline of no more than six pickets to be on the gates during a strike. This will now be designated a criminal offence. The measures include the obligation to give the police the name of the person organising the picket line, and they could end up in prison as a result.
Other measures proposed in the new legislation include:
- A right for the employers to hire agency workers to break strikes.
- A double threshold for unions in transport, health, education and other parts of the public sector. First, they have to get at least a 50% turnout of those entitled to vote (which every union will now have to do even if not in these sectors). The union has to tell the employer exactly who they will be asking to strike and where exactly they work. Then at least 40% of all those entitled to vote must vote for action.
An example given in the Guardian said that if 100 teachers were asked to strike then at least 50 have to vote. Of those at least 40 have to vote for strike action, i.e. 80% have to be in favour of strike action.
- There will have to be a fresh strike ballot at least every four months.
- Two weeks’ notice of strike action has to be given, allowing management plenty of time to hire a legal strike-breaking workforce through agencies.
- They propose to dramatically cut union facility time across the whole of the public sector – they have already started this in the civil service.
- They also propose to cut the unions’ ability to have political funds. Not just those who give money to the Labour Party (some £25 million a year at the moment) but all political funds whether affiliated to the Labour Party or not.
- In a breath-taking move they are also proposing to introduce a levy to make the unions pay for the government’s “certification officer” – who is responsible for policing the anti-trade union laws. It is akin to making the prisoner pay the wages of his jailer!
- They propose to make it more difficult and bureaucratic for reps to obtain facility time to carry out legitimate trade union duties such as casework for members facing disciplinary proceedings. Scandalously, this will include time off for Health and Safety representatives who up until now have been exempt from restrictions because of the need to act immediately where the welfare of staff is at risk.
We have already seen how vindictive this Government (and its ConDem predecessor) can be with the attack on our ability to collect members subscriptions through the ending of check-off in the NPS. If the Government get their way trade unions will risk either becoming outlaws or little more than bystanders as employers will have free reign to impose whatever draconian measures they choose without fear of opposition. We cannot afford to let that happen.
Napo will be part of the TUC’s campaign against the Bill and we urge members to become actively involved. As an affiliate of the National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN), for example, we will be attending a lobby of the TUC in Brighton on 13th September that calls for a national demonstration on the day the Government takes its Bill to Parliament in the Autumn. We urge branches to support any local protests and initiatives aimed at highlighting the damage this Bill could do.
Chas Berry National Vice Chair