5pm Monday 2nd November outside Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Trade Union Council says “The right of workers to peacefully withdraw their labour is essential in a democratic society, recognised and upheld by the United Nations following the defeat of fascism in 1945. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was set up as a formal UN body to enshrine these rights in law. Now 70 years later modern capitalism is trying to persuade us that trade unions are standing in the way of a successful economy. We reject that charge. Trade unions help to distribute wealth in a capitalist society. It is all too clear that the decline in collective bargaining in UK has led to Britain becoming the most unequal country in Europe as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We are not the “problem” – we are part of the solution.”
Sheffield Trade Union Council’s Martin Mayer says ” We need to step up the fight to stop the Tories new anti-union legislation which will severely restrict the right to strike – and push unions outside of the law. It is also designed to cripple the Labour Party by making it much harder for unions keep a political fund and use those funds to support the Labour Party. There is no doubt that this poses a real threat to our civil liberties in a democratic society.”
The Government’s Trade Union Reform Bill will introduce highly restrictive new voting thresholds before a strike can be legal:
- 50% of eligible union members must vote for a strike ballot to be legal. There is no such requirement for electing MPs or in any other normal democratic election. It is an artificial barrier designed to prevent strikes from taking place.
- a further restrictions on essential public services – e.g. schools, transport, health etc but the list is likely to be very wide -is that 40% of eligible union members must cast their votes for a strike on a 50% plus turnout. This is contrary to ILO Conventions because it wrongly assumes that all non-voters are voting against.
- low turnouts in industrial ballots occur because the Tories’ anti-union laws from 1980’s insisted strike ballots have to be by postal ballot. We can demonstrate that secure on-line workplace balloting will achieve higher turnouts – so why does the Government refuse to allow it? This system is in use for legal union recognition ballots, and was even used to elect the Tory candidate for London Mayor!
- Will we require the same voting thresholds to apply when voting on a settlement to end a strike? Well of course not otherwise we may not be able to end a strike and get people back to work!!
- The ballot paper will also have to define exactly what sort of strike is planned i.e. odd days, all-out etc. Actually the union representatives usually decide the precise action after the ballot result and take into account the employer’s response, the mood of the members’ etc. Unions will be denied this flexibility and may have to continue strike action even when employer agrees to talks – otherwise the ballot will be invalidated!
But there is much more to this anti-union Bill that we should be worried about
The Bill and associated secondary legislation will:
- Allow agency labour to be used to substitute for striking workers, currently outlawed, which would be deeply divisive and, with agency workers often doing unfamiliar jobs, could pose a serious health and safety risk to themselves and others
- Severely restrict the right to picket and peacefully protest, including organising campaigns through social media
- protest activity during the strike e.g. demonstrations and rallies could be outlawed unless specifically notified prior to a strike taking place
- all the above give the employer even more pretexts to secure a n injunction to prevent a strike from taking place because of alleged and often spurious claims that a technical point of law has been breached. This is major problem now with the anti-union laws and will get worse under this new Bill.
- give far reaching new powers to the state to interfere in the internal working of unions, demand documents and data on membership etc. and set fines without recourse to courts
- Significantly reduce trade union facility time and withdraw check off union contributions in the public sector, irrespective of the wishes of the employer
- Require union members to ‘contract in’ to their union’s Political Fund every 5 years, thereby significantly reducing the ability of trade unions either to campaign on political issues or to support political parties.
We are having this rally on Monday 2nd November as it is the same day as the TUC “Kill the Bill” Lobby of Parliament in London (aimed primarily at Tory MPs).
TUC lobby of Parliament Monday 2nd November
The TUC Rally and lobby of Parliament is on Monday, November 2nd in Central Hall, Westminster, London Start: 1:00pm and Lobby from 2.30pm.
If you haven’t done so yet, contact your MP to make an appointment.
Labour, LibDem, SNP and DUP are all united in opposing this Bill – but the Tories have a 12-seat majority and if they stay united Tory MPs are likely to carry this Bill through unless faced by mass opposition both inside and outside Parliament. Labour MPs have expressed opposition.
Below are some suggested questions to ask your MP on the day. If you cannot attend in person, you can still let your MP know your feelings. email your Conservative M.P. here with the following questions:
The site will identify the party of your Member of Parliament:
- With recorded strikes at a historic low, what is the real purpose of the Trade Union Bill?
- How will allowing for the recruitment of agency labour during an industrial dispute improve an already tense situation?
- It is unprecedented that a governing party would use its parliamentary majority to legislate to cut off funding for the opposition party, is this not anti-democratic?
- Given the police do not wish to be given any new powers, why is the Government pressing ahead with the proposals for identifiable “picket supervisors” who must show a “letter of authority” to almost anybody who asks? This seem draconian and could lead to a new round of “blacklisting”.
- Why is the Government refusing to accept secret, supervised workplace ballots and electronic balloting for union members taking part in industrial action ballots?