As the government’s controversial trade union bill passes its second reading in the House of Commons this week, UNISON has stepped up its campaign with the TUC and other unions to oppose this attack on the rights of working people and their unions but what will it mean if it becomes law?
What is the Trade Union Bill
The Trade Union Bill is a new set of laws that will severely restrict working peoples’ ability to organise for their own rights and campaign for a more progressive society. It will go through Parliament this Autumn and could be law by February 2016 and will apply in England, Scotland and Wales.
The Trade Union Bill undermines the right to strike
• Workers will only be able to withdraw their labour through industrial action if 50% or more of eligible members vote in the industrial action ballot.
• For industrial action in ‘important public services’ 40% of all members eligible to vote would have to vote yes for a union to have a strike mandate. That means if 50% of members vote, 80% of those must vote yes.
• ‘Important public services’ affects UNISON members working in health and education (anyone in education delivering services to people under 17).
• All ‘ancillary’ workers in health and education count as ‘important public services’ and are covered by this, but the government has yet to name exactly who those groups of workers will be.
• Action that meets every threshold could still be stopped on legal technicalities around whether all rules were followed. For example, new rules will require ‘reasonably detailed’ information on all balloting papers. Reasonably detailed is yet to be defined but lack of ‘reasonably detailed’ information on ballot papers could be used by employers as a basis for legal action.
• Unions must give extended notice of industrial action – 14 days, up from the current seven days.
• Unions will have new time limits on ballot mandates. After four months, whether a dispute is resolved or not, unions will have to reballot.
The Trade Union Bill will allow employers to use agency workers to break strikes.
• Employers will be allowed to bring in agency workers when their employees are on strike.
The Trade Union Bill would undermine the right to peaceful protest on picket lines
When UNISON members protest during strikes they already comply with a detailed Code of Practice but if the Bill becomes law:
• Employers will be able to apply for an injunction to stop people attending picket lines outside their workplace.
• A new criminal offence – intimidation on the picket line – could become law, and Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) could be used against people protesting outside their workplace.
• Every single picket would have to appoint a picket supervisor who must wear an identifying badge or armband, carry a letter of authorisation, be at the picket line at all times or be contactable by the police and meet with them at short notice.
• Unions would have to give 14 days notice of any plans for protests associated with their industrial action, including what will be written on websites and in Facebook posts and Tweets. If they do not provide details, or fail to provide updates of materials, unions will face financial penalties.
Here’s what you can do now:
1. Sign up to receive updates on the campaign here: www.unison.org.uk/our-campaigns/trade-union-bill-2015
2. Take part in UNISON’s survey now to give UNISON your thoughts on the right to strike: https://goo.gl/STZngm
3. Sign the TUC’s petition against agency staff being used during strikes: https://campaign.goingtowork.org.uk/petitions/don-t-let-employersuse-agency-temps-to-break-strikes
4. Read and share Dave Prentis’s blog on the Trade Union Bill: https://www.unison.org.uk/news/general-secretaryblog/2015/08/time-for-the-government-to-get-its-priorities-straight
Source: UNISON website