Now to start off let me say that I am not, nor have I ever been a member of a trade union. Like them or loathe them trade unions have done a lot of good. Without them there would not be a minimum wage, and speaking plainly, workers would have no rights whatsoever, without unions there would be no race relations act, no age discrimination laws and no gender or sexuality discrimination legislation.
Ok so taking a look at it the Trade Union Bill, which went through its second reading this week, is like something straight out of a Thatcherite nightmare. On the surface the bill basically sets out to completely cripple the union’s mandate.
The right to strike has all but been abolished, calling for a 50% turnout and then majority vote before a strike can take place. Now to put this 50% turnout rule into context it would mean that the Welsh Assembly would only have 4 sitting members and the Scottish Parliament would be down to under 50 members and not a single British Member of the European Parliament or Police and Crime Commissioner would be able to take their seat, as well as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson (the turnout for the London Mayoral Election was a measly 38%).
Other provisions of the bill include naming the leader of a demonstration (usually no more than a dozen blokes stood around a drum freezing their backsides off). Double the notice unions have to give before a strike (Arthur Scargill can tell you the effects of letting people know you’re going to strike months in advance). The end to the collecting of union subs direct from salaries.
As well as this businesses will be able to employ temporary workers to cover strike action (a provision of the bill which flies directly in the face of the union movement). On top of this and what is possibly the most reasonable part of the bill is that political contributions from union subs will now be an opt in system as opposed to an opt out system. Now I have no problem with unions funding the party that most matches their goals, but I have always thought that it should be up to the individual member to decide if they wish to support that party as well.
So the implications of this bill are that unions will never be able to strike again and the way the main opposition party in Parliament is funded will be irrevocably damaged.
Here’s hoping it has better luck in the committee stage of the bill and that it gets shafted in the Lords. I guess the Government subscribes to the idea that it wont get better if you picket.