Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill

Submitted by carolyn on Sun, 07/01/2007 - 16:55

Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill: An October 2008 Update

Following its second reading in the House of Lords, the Employment Bill came back before the Commons when Parliament resumed on 6 October 2008. By 16th October the Bill had completed its Committee Stage. The Bill has been scheduled to reach Report Stage on 4th November.

As it stands, the Employment Bill does not incorporate the principles contained in the TUC supported Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill – a Bill which the Institute’s Chair, John Hendy QC, helped to draft.

However, there are three areas of the Employment Bill which can be amended to strengthen trade union rights. As no suitable amendments were raised at Committee Stage by members of the Employment Bill Committee, John McDonnell, Andrew Dismore, Kelvin Hopkins, Dennis Skinner, Michael Connerty, Ian Stewart and Jon Cruddas have tabled amendments for consideration and hopefully discussion at Report Stage. The amendments would provide for:

  1. Better protection against dismissal or victimisation of workers taking part in lawful industrial action.
  2. Filling loopholes in the law to prevent the use of agency workers replacing striking workers.
  3. Fairer balloting procedures which would cut the ‘red tape’ facing unions when balloting members for industrial action by placing a duty on employers to supply information need by unions to comply with notice and balloting requirements.

The United Campaign is now encouraging supporters to lobby their MPs in support of amendments to the Bill. The campaign suggests:

  • Writing to MPs using a model letter
  • Using the model letter to write to your MP via the website

ASLEF v UK

In its current form, the Employment Bill also fails to adequately reflect the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment on ASLEF v UK. In that decision, it was agreed that UK laws prohibiting unions from expelling members of the BNP, were in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government used the Employment Bill to amend the law (adopting a minimalist approach unfortunately) but the Bill was then amended in the House of Lords, introducing yet more new burdens on unions. In an effort to improve the situation, an amendment has now been tabled by Tony Lloyd, Frank Doran, Jon Cruddas, Bill Olner and Judy Mallaber. In a Briefing on the ASLEF case, IER proposed much wider repeal of the current laws in an effort to protect and promote the internationally recognised principles on trade union autonomy. However, having failed to persuade the government to adopt a more fundamental approach to repeal of the law, we believe the proposed amendment is an improvement to the Bill as it stands.

Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill: An Update

The Employment Bill is back before the Commons soon after Parliament resumes on 6 October 2008. As it stands, the Employment Bill does not incorporate the principles contained in the TUC supported Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill – a Bill which the Institute’s Chair, John Hendy QC, helped to draft.

However, we understand there may be three areas of the Employment Bill which can be amended to strengthen trade union rights. These would provide for:

  1. Better protection against dismissal or victimisation of workers taking part in lawful industrial action.
  1. Filling loopholes in the law to prevent the use of agency workers replacing striking workers.
  1. Fairer balloting procedures which would cut the ‘red tape’ facing unions when balloting members for industrial action by placing a duty on employers to supply information need by unions to comply with notice and balloting requirements.

The United Campaign has now started a campaign encouraging supporters to lobby their MPs in support of amendments to the Bill. The campaign suggests:

If you want to assist in the distribution of the postcards, contact info@unitedcampaign.org.uk with the number of cards you require. Alternatively a model letter can be found on their website at www.unitedcampaign.org.uk.

Trade Union Freedom Bill denied second reading

As regular vistors to the site will know, the Institute has played an important role in developing and promoting the Trade Union Freedom Bill. John Hendy, QC Chair of the Institute, worked closely with the TUC in drafting the Bill.

We were therefore extremely happy to be associated with the National Parliamentary Rally on 18th October 2007 in support of the Bill organised by the United Campaign for the Repeal of Anti Trade Union Laws. The number and range of trade union members who travelled to London to support the Rally was inspiring and reflects the extent to which the Bill has caught the public imagination.

Unfortunately, the Bill was denied a second reading on 19th October. However, the calls for greater trade union freedoms will continue.

New Employment Bill introduced.

In December 2007 a new Employment Bill was published. Unfortunately, the Bill in its current form does not address any of the fundamental principles contained in the Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill. To address this shortfall, a third Early Day Motion (No. 1604) was tabled on 19th May 2008 with the initial support of 30 MPs.

EDM 1604 reiterates support for the Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill and calls on the Government to amend the current Employment Bill during its passage through the Houses of Parliament.

Early Day Motion 1604

On 19th May 2008 John McDonnell MP tabled Early Day Motion 1604. The EDM encourages amendments to the Employment Bill to reflect the provisions contained in the Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill.

That this House recognises free and independent trades unions are a force for good in UK society and around the world and are vital to democracy; welcomes the positive role modern unions play in providing protection for working people and winning fairness at work; further recognises and welcomes the fact that union members earn significantly more than non-union members and therefore that unions have a vital role to play in the fight against poverty and inequality; regrets that successive anti-union legislation has meant that trade union rights are now weaker than those introduced by the Trades Disputes Act 1906; is concerned that weaker trade union rights has contributed to a significant fall in collective bargaining coverage over the last 25 years which in turn has contributed to increases in inequality in the UK; therefore further welcomes and supports the Trades Union Congress campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill whose principles include better protection for workers, such as those sacked by Gate Gourmet in 2005, allowing limited supportive action, following a ballot, in specific circumstances, and simplification of the ballot procedures; and therefore urges the Government to bring forward amendments to the Employment Bill to reflect the principles contained in the Trade Union Freedom Bill

The list of MPs who have so far signed up in support of the Bill can be found here

If your MP is not listed – contact them now and encourage them to support the EDM and the proposal to amend the Employment Bill. A model letter is provided for your convenience.

Brief Parliamentary History of Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill

On 30th November 2005 Tony Lloyd set down EDM 1170 supporting the call for a Trade Union Freedom Bill. That EDM won the support of 187 MPs before falling at the end of the 2006 Parliamentary session. The text of that EDM and the supporting MPs are listed below.

That this House recognises that free and independent trade unions are a force for good in UK society and around the world, and are vital to democracy; welcomes the positive role modern unions play in providing protection for working people and winning fairness at work; notes the 1906 Trades Disputes Act granted unions the legal freedom to take industrial action; regrets that successive anti-union legislation has meant that trade union rights are now weaker than those introduced by the Trades Disputes Act; notes the overwhelming support at both the Trades Union Congress and Labour Party Conference for the Gate Gourmet workers and for improvements in union rights, including measures to simplify ballot procedures and to allow limited supportive action, following a ballot, in specific circumstances; further notes that these conferences called for legislation which conformed to International Labour Organisation Conventions ratified by the UK; and therefore welcomes the decision of the 2005 Trades Union Congress to campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1906 Trades Disputes Act.

Sponsoring MPs

Abbott, Diane, Anderson, David, Anderson, Janet,Austin, Ian, Austin, John,
Banks, Gordon, Barlow, Celia, Battle, John, Bayley, Hugh, Begg, Anne, Benton, Joe, Berry, Roger, Betts, Clive, Blackman-Woods, Roberta Borrow, David S Brown, Lyn Brown, Nicholas Buck, Karen Burden, Richard Burgon, Colin Butler, Dawn Campbell, Ronnie Caton, Martin Challen, Colin Chaytor, David Clapham, Michael Clark, Katy Clark, Paul Clarke, Tom Clelland, David Cohen, Harry Connarty, Michael Cook, Frank Cooper, Rosie Corbyn, Jeremy Cousins, Jim Crausby, David Creagh, Mary Cruddas, Jon Cryer, Ann Cummings, John Cunningham, Jim Curtis-Thomas, Claire Davidson, Ian Dean, Janet Devine, Jim Dismore, Andrew Dobbin, Jim Dobson, Frank Donohoe, Brian H Doran, Frank Dowd, Jim Drew, David Dunwoody, Gwyneth Durkan, Mark Eagle, Angela Efford, Clive Ellman, Louise Engel, Natascha Ennis, Jeff Etherington, Bill Farrelly, Paul Flynn, Paul Foster, Michael Jabez Francis, Hywel Galloway, George George, Bruce Gerrard, Neil Gibson, Ian Gilroy, Linda Godsiff, Roger Griffith, Nia Hall, Patrick Hamilton, David Hancock, Mike Harvey, Nick
Havard, Dai Hemming, John Henderson, Doug Hendrick, Mark Hepburn, Stephen Heyes, David Hillier, Meg Hodgson, Sharon Hoey, Kate Hood, Jimmy Hopkins, Kelvin Howarth, George Hoyle, Lindsay Humble, Joan R Iddon, Brian Illsley, Eric Jackson, Glenda James, Sian C Jenkins, Brian Jones, Helen Jones, Lynne Jones, Martyn Joyce, Eric Kaufman, Gerald Keen, Alan Kemp, Fraser Kilfoyle, Peter Lazarowicz, Mark Lepper, David Lloyd, Tony Llwyd, Elfyn Love, Andrew Mackinlay, Andrew Malik, Shahid Mallaber, Judy Marris, Rob Marsden, Gordon Marshall, David Marshall-Andrews, Robert McCafferty, Chris McCarthy, Kerry McCarthy-Fry, Sarah McDonnell, John McGovern, Jim McGrady, Eddie McKechin, Ann Meacher, Michael Meale, Alan Miller, Andrew Mitchell, Austin Moffat, Anne Moffatt, Laura Moon, Madeleine Morgan, Julie Mudie, George Mullin, Chris Murphy, Denis Murphy, Paul O’Hara, Edward Olner, Bill Osborne, Sandra Owen, Albert Pope, Greg Prentice, Gordon Price, Adam Prosser, Gwyn Purchase, Ken Reed, Jamie Riordan, Linda Robertson, Angus Obertson, John Ruddock, Joan Salmond, Alex Salter, Martin Sarwar, Mohammad Seabeck, Alison Sheridan, Jim Short, Clare Simpson, Alan Simpson, David Singh, Marsha Skinner, Dennis Smith, Geraldine Smith, John P Southworth, Helen Stewart, Ian Stoate, Howard Strang, Gavin Stringer, Graham Tami, Mark Taylor, Dari Taylor, David Taylor, Richard Thornberry, Emily Tipping, Paddy Todd, Mark Trickett, Jon Turner, Desmond Ussher, Kitty Vaz, Keith Vis, Rudi Walley, Joan Wareing, Robert N Weir, Mike Williams, Betty Williams, Hywel Willis, Phil Wood, Mike Wright, Anthony D Wright, Iain Wyatt, Derek

On 18th December 2006, John McDonnell introduced a second Early Day Motion 532 in support of the Trade Union Freedom Bill:

That this House recognises that free and independent trade unions are a force for good in UK society around the world and are vital to democracy; welcomes the positive role modern unions play in providing protection for working people and winning fairness at work; notes the 1906 Trades Disputes Act granted unions the legal freedom to take industrial action; regrets that successive anti-union legislation has meant that trade union rights are now weaker than those introduced by the 1906 Trades Disputes Act; therefore welcomes and supports the TUC campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill whose principles include better protection for workers, such as those sacked by Gate Gourmet in 2005, the simplification of ballot procedures and to allow limited supportive action, following a ballot, in specific circumstances; and therefore urges the Government to bring forward legislation to address these proposals.

On 2nd March 2007 when the Bill was tabled for reading, there were over 100 MPs in the House to discuss this and a Bill on Agency Workers. Unfortunately, due to a shortage of time, the Bill was not read (see Hansard. The Bill was then rescheduled for a 2nd reading on 19th October 2007, leaving plenty of time to encourage wider support for the Bill both inside and outside the Houses of Parliament. Despite a huge National Rally in suport of the Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill the night before the debate, once again Parliamentary procedures were used to ensure that the Bill did not receive a reading.

In December 2007 the long awaited Employment Simplification Bill was published under the title, Employment Bill. That Bill is currently progressing through the House of Lords and into the House of Commons. It is expected to become law in 2009.

The Institute has used the substance of the Trade Union Rights and Freedoms Bill to produce suggested amendments to the Employment Bill.

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