It is a ‘dark day’ for working people as the Tories push through this ‘sinister’ law

Support us and go ad-free

Unions are calling it a “dark day” for workers, as on 3 May the government’s trade union bill passed with only a few amendments dampening the full draconian force of the original bill. While passing through the Commons it was called “sinister”, “spiteful” and an “assault on the right of working people”.

Turn-out requirements 

The bill in its final form requires a 50% turnout of eligible union members for strikes to be legal. To put this in perspective, on 5 May the second largest set of elections across the UK will take place with 124 council seats, regional and national elections as well as mayoral elections for several cities including London. In the 2014 local elections the voter turnout was just 36%, and that was not considered abhorrently low.

So how can it be right to set the bar higher for union ballots? This is merely a sly suppression of the right to organise.

This will not effect all strike action. For instance, the current Junior Doctors strikes in which a staggering 98% of those eligible voted in favour. But it does mean that industries with poorer organisation, communication, and less of a workplace culture will often not be legally able to strike, even if they desperately need to make their demands heard.

Time Limits

The bill enshrines in law a four-month time limit on industrial action, after which point the union must re-cast ballots to continue, regardless of whether the dispute has been resolved.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Bruce Carr, Queen’s Counsel, said:

Could it seriously be said that the 98% voting in favour of the action in November 2015 could not be regarded as a proper mandate for action beyond that date (…) ?

Such a time limit places further pressures on the strikers to leave the picket line rather than on the employer to put a decent offer on the table.

E-Balloting

It was much hoped that one significant amendment would be the introduction of E-balloting. That means workers would not be required to turn up in person to vote for strike action, but could instead do it from their computers. This could mean a skyrocketing participation in ballots, and perhaps a lease of life for workplace democracy.

However, the wording of the bill provides merely that a review of E-balloting will be undertaken. This is suggestive of delaying tactics, a way to put the notion on hold indefinitely.

Any Good News?

The government was forced to climb down on its proposals to abolish the ‘opt-out’ for union subscriptions, whereby fees are deducted from salaries by default.

But buried in the wording is a clause that makes it illegal for unions to ask money of any member who has not specifically indicated they wish to contribute beforehand.

Labour’s Ian McNicol has previously estimated that the changes could cost unions up to 90% of their funding.

Given that Labour draws the majority of its funding from union contributions Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland said the bill was:

clearly a cynical attack on the main source of funding for the Labour Party.

The Deafening Silence of UK Media

At the time of writing there has been an absolute silence on final votes. Sure, in the last few weeks the main media sources have chimed in and had their say. But now the final votes have been counted not a word has been breathed.

Who’s willing to bet that they won’t print anything until after Thursday’s elections?

The media is complacent in the face of this unprecedented attack on workers rights. Only after its too late will the majority realise that their very rights and ability to organise have been silently stripped from them.

More to come?

Though passed, the full and final wording of the bill has not been released. The information here has been pieced together from transcripts from the House of Lords and the House of Commons. This could mean we are in for a few more nasty surprises as the details emerge. It has been suggested that the bill may be illegal under European human rights law that protects the right to take strike action.

What is happening to workers and the unions that represent them is an unprecedented attack on the right to organise. It is a cynical and manipulative form of politics by which the Conservatives are attempting to starve their opponents of funding. There will be more strikes, but they will be illegal ones, impossible to predict, and less likely to result in any decent settlement for workers. The Tories have unwittingly opened Pandora’s box.

Get Involved!

5 May, 7am to 10pm is the biggest set of elections, outside the general election, in the UK, including:

  • 124 council elections  across England
  • Scottish Parliament
  • The National Assembly of Wales
  • The National Assembly of Northern Ireland
  • Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs)
  • London General Assembly
  • Mayorships of Bristol, Liverpool, Salford and London

Find your local polling station here.

Image via twitter.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed