Political influence of the trade union movement to be severely restricted under new law
15 July 2015 12:00 AM

The Trade Unions Bill is the beginning of the end for all workers' rights

15 July 2015

The government's new Trade Unions Bill is not just an attempt to limit the right to strike. It is an attempt to end it altogether.

Under the new legislation, the details of which are being revealed today, it will be virtually impossible for workers in the public sector to ever again organise industrial action to defend their pay and conditions.

The first provision in the bill is that all unions will need to persuade at least half of their members to take part in strike ballots before they can be authorised.

This alone will be hard enough. Under current legislation, the only way that members can take part in union ballots is via post. Ballots can only be sent out to home addresses and as a result they often lie unopened on people's doorsteps. Consequently, the first many people hear about strikes is when they are about to take part in them. This is clearly not sensible and unions have repeatedly requested for a change in the law to allow online or workplace voting instead. If the government really cared about improving the democratic processes in trade unions these provisions would be in this new bill, but they are not.

The restrictions don't stop there. Unions representing public sector workers such as teachers, train drivers and doctors will have to pass a much tougher test before being allowed to strike. Under the new law, even if public sector unions can somehow persuade more than half of their members to open the ballots and respond in time, the government have added a further threshold requiring more than 40% of all those eligible to strike to vote in favour. Any abstentions are automatically counted as a vote against.

So in a ballot where 50% of members take part, public sector unions will need a whopping 80% vote in favour before any strike action can go ahead. This is a ludicrously high bar that will make it all but impossible for most industrial action to take place.

Again, this isn't an attempt to limit strikes, it's an attempt to effectively ban them altogether.

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