A new bill to limit the powers of Trade Unions is to be debated by the House of Commons later today.
What does the bill propose?
The bill is proposing to limit some of the powers of Trade Unions to hold strike action. This comes after many high-profile strikes took place already this year, including the Fire Brigades Union in February, and the tube strikes in London.
The bill proposes:
- a minimum 50% turnout on striking ballots;
- at least a 40% backing in cases of industrial action within the public sector;
- doubling the amount of notice unions must give of industrial action from 7 to 14 days;
- allowing employers to use agency staff to replace striking workers;
- introducing fines of up to £20,000 to unions picketing without official armbands;
- ending the ‘check-off’ system for unions to collect union subs directly from a salary.
The bill is opposed by the TUC as well as many politicians, who have questioned taking such harsh action against strikes.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC said of the bill; “If an employer believed we couldn’t strike, they wouldn’t bother to bargain. We wouldn’t have safe workplaces, we wouldn’t have paid holidays and we wouldn’t have equal pay. Nobody would deny that strikes can be inconvenient. But when it comes to a threat to the fundamental right to strike, the public are with us. Because that’s exactly what this government is doing. Attacking the very principle of the right to strike.”
In contrast, Nick Boles, MP for Grantham and Stamford said in a blog: “This Bill is not a declaration of war on the Trade Union movement. Neither is it an attempt to ban industrial action. We believe that working people should have the ability to strike. But this freedom to strike is not unconditional. It must be balanced against the freedom of other working people to go about their lives without undue disruption.”
What will this mean for me?
If you are an employer, this bill could make it easier for you to keep operating when industrial action is called. This is due in part to the relaxation of the rule about using agency staff to cover workers taking part in industrial action. Currently, agency workers may only be used when they have already been in place before strike action is called, you cannot currently bring agency workers in during a strike. The bill would also make calling strike action more difficult, and therefore may prevent your workers taking industrial action.
If you are an employee and a member of a Trade Union, the bill will hamper your ability to call industrial action in the case of a dispute. While this may encourage workers to be more open to negotiation, the bill may also be detrimental to workers rights if employers feel able to ignore the demands of Trade Unions who will find it harder to call a strike.