10 September 2015
Should it be passed, the Trade Union Bill will require striking workers on a picket to identify themselves to police and give 14 days notice for all picket and protest plans.
A YouGov poll commissioned by the TUC shows that 77 percent of people – and 69 percent of Conservative voters – think the new measures are a waste of time.
72 percent think forcing unions to submit what they are planning to post on social media two weeks in advance is also a waste of time.
These regulations (which will lead to penalties of up to £20,000 if breached) have the sole aim of shackling trade unions and their members and wasting their time and resources. Equally worrying are the proposed social media surveillance powers for industrial disputes, which apply to no other domain.
Writing for Left Foot Forward, Unison general secretary Dave Prentice said “This is clearly excessive monitoring of legitimate campaigning activity, especially when what might count as official union communication is considered. It’s not clear, for example, whether someone whose Twitter profile recognises their voluntary union role would be seen as running a personal or an organisational account.
“It would be entirely disproportionate for unions to face an injunction preventing a picket, or claiming damages simply because they failed to list a Twitter account used by a union member. These measures are simply designed to hinder legitimate union activity including campaigning.”
Professor Keith Ewing said: “The police are being asked to become agents for the employer, while the employer is being asked to become an agent for the police.
“Here we have the government imposing a duty on picket supervisors to produce their letter of authorisation to anyone who reasonably wants to see it. Presumably this will include employers.
“The risk is that this information will then be easily distributed in construction and other industries.
“In the light of the recent scandal and the unresolved business of blacklisting, workers will rightly be cautious about giving any information to employers about picketing.”
The Bill has been widely condemned by human rights groups, and ministers have also faced criticism for attempting to push the bill through without proper consultation. Given the contents of the bill and the backlash it’s receiving, it’s not hard to see why they’re trying.
Commenting on the bill Carolyn Jones, Director of the IER said:
This is a blatant attack on the rights of workers and the freedoms of trade unions. The proposals on strike action will impose impossible thresholds for the majority of trade unions under our archaic, over restrictive and increasingly expensive balloting procedures. And for what? People increasingly understand that it is the Government’s austerity-led cuts that are undermining our public services not trade union action. Yet here we have a government elected by less than 25% of the electorate imposing voting thresholds on trade unions that have already been declared in breach of international law. The ideology behind these proposals needs to be exposed and the government plans resisted.
The Institute for Employment Rights will be holding a TUC fringe meeting on the bill, in conjunction with the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom. It will provide an update of recent events and discuss the growing resistance against the bill and how best to oppose the bill moving forward. Details: The Regency Room in the Old Ship Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 1NR – on Sunday, the final evening of Congress, at 7pm.