Five reasons to care about the Trade Union Bill

Posted by Sara Ogilvie on 14 September 2015

The Trade Union Bill is being debated in the House of Commons this afternoon. Here are five reasons to care:

  1. Protected by article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to join a trade union is a human right.  The measures in the Bill will infringe this vital right by seeking to regulate the way in which trade union members can come together and take collective action.
  2. Trade Unions help defend labour rights. Over recent years, some of the highest profile union campaigns have involved: staff working at Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema asking for a living wage; midwives in Northern Ireland challenging the decision not to award them the same, small, pay increase as granted to midwives in England and Wales; cleaners working at HMRC asking for a pay increase of less than £2 per hour to take their salary up to £8.80 and reflecting the pay of cleaners working in other HMRC buildings in London; firefighters concerned with changes to pensions and retirement age. The proposals in this Bill will significantly weaken trade unions and their role in the workplace, making it much harder for them to help individuals resolve workplace problems.
  3. The proposals relating to pickets and protests are the hallmark of an authoritarian government and threaten the right to peaceful protest.  Forcing trade union members who attend pickets to identify themselves as such and to hand over personal details such as phone number to the police would inevitably inhibit many from joining pickets and protests, and may even act as a disincentive to joining a union altogether. Just as worrying is the thought that Government will seek to extend this type of proposal to other types of peaceful protest.
  4. The Bill discriminates against public sector workers and will make it easier for the Government to be a bad employer. Over the past five years, the relationship between the Government and a number of public sector unions has been particularly difficult and 54% of public sector workers belong to a trade union. Instead of seeking to make its own life easier by preventing trade union members from exercising their rights, the Government should ensure that it and other public sector employees treat employees in a lawful and fair manner.
  5. There is no evidence that any change is required. The Regulatory Policy Committee has concluded that the Government had not adduced the evidence to support its proposals, and accorded them “not fit for purpose” rating.