21 April 2016
Report Stage for the Trade Union Bill continued in the Lords yesterday (20 April 2016), at which the government agreed to retain check-off processes for members of public sector unions, representing a u-turn on their plans.
Today we provide a summary of other significant changes that have been made to the Trade Union Bill so far:
Government to conduct a review into e-balloting
The Lords voted in an amendment obligating the government to conduct an independent review into e-balloting for trade unions. The report must be laid before each House of Parliament within six months of the passing of the Act with a view to rollout the technology across the labour movement.
This new system will make it much easier for members of trade unions to participate in strike ballots, which will be particularly important after the passage of the Act, as the government still plans to institute new thresholds for support on industrial action votes. All strike ballots will need to achieve a 50% turnout to be valid, and in “important” public services, at least 40% of all eligible voters must support action before it can go ahead.
The amendment was passed by a division of 320 to 181.
A partial reversal on notice periods for strike action
The government has agreed to retain the seven day notice period before strike action in cases where the union and employer find this mutually acceptable.
While this amendment introduces some flexibility to the government’s initial plans to double the notice period for all strikes, without obtaining the agreement of employers trade unions will still be required to give 14 days notice.
Extended validity of ballots in support of strike action
The Tories originally proposed ballots in support of strike action should be invalidated after four months, but after this was highly opposed in the Lords it has been extended to six months. Where the employer and trade union agrees, strike ballots will remain valid for up to nine months.
Existing trade union members not caught under new political fund requirements
The Lords accepted the recommendations of the Select Committee that scrutinized government plans to force trade union members to opt in rather than out of political funds.
While the new amendment does not go so far as to retain the opt-out process, existing trade union members and those who join trade unions in the first 12 months after the Act becomes law will not be required to explicitly opt in.
After the 12 months has passed, trade unions will be required to ask new members to opt in to their political funds and make clear the member’s choice in this matter on their membership forms.
The amendment was voted in by 320 to 172, but IER President Keith Ewing believes the Committee’s recommendations do not go far enough.
Removal of power for government to reduce facility time by secondary legislation
The Lords voted to remove Clause 13, which provided the government with reserve powers to intervene in facility time arrangements for public sector trade union representatives by secondary legislation.
The amendment was passed by 248 to 160.
Protect the right to strike: Kill the Bill – just £5!
The Conservative Government’s proposed strike ballot thresholds: The challenge to trade unions – just £6!