While details of the Bill are yet to be published, Faisal Rashid pointed to the success of the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 in New Zealand, which provides unions with the right to speak to workers in a designated space within the workplace so long as they provide notice to the employer of their intention to do so. The worker is paid during the time they spend with the rep.
Explaining the need for similar legislation in the UK, he reminded Parliament of the UK’s commitment under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights to provide a “right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests”.
Recounting evidence from several unions and their members – which total 6.5 million workers across the UK – he demonstrated that many UK employers are behaving in breach of this human right.
Union members and officials have been banned from entering McDonald’s sites, while Amazon has been reported to randomise shift patterns to prevent unionised workers from speaking to their colleagues on the way to work. InterContinental Hotels Group have been documented using intimidation and bullying to prevent unionisation, while Bupa refuses to allow Unison representatives on site to visit their members.
“I have heard countless stories like these from union officials,” Faisal Rashid said.
“As long as these practices are widespread, this country’s commitment to the human right to form and to join a trade union is hollow and meaningless.
“Why are our democratic trade unions being treated in this way, and why is the human right to join and form trade unions being denied? In part, it is because under current legislation there are no rights of workplace access for trade unions.”
Apart from meeting the UK’s commitment to protect human rights, there is also an economic case for improving trade union access, he went on.
“If we are to transition away from a low-wage, precarious economy, increasing the collective bargaining power of workers is critical,” he explained.
It is a myth that strong trade unions drive down profit—I emphasise that point. A happy, well-respected workforce is also a productive workforce.”