|Last night’s Trade Union Bill debate in the House of Lords exposed once again how ill-thought through and partisan the government’s Bill is.
We heard concerns raised from right across the House about the threat this Bill poses to good industrial relations and fair treatment at work. Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff expressed concern that by focusing only on the “sharp end” of union activity, the Bill could put at risk the important role of unions in public life:
“Trade union activity when it works well, as it very often does, fosters good relationships in the workplace, reduces absences from work, resolves disputes, promotes mediation, avoids recourse to employment tribunals and the expense associated with them.”
It is essential that ministers listen to their Lordships before lasting damage is done.
Forcing public sector employers to abandon locally-agreed arrangements that have worked well for years will strain working relationships, at a time when local government is already under huge pressure.
Former head of the civil service, crossbencher Lord Kerslake (who penned a powerful Guardian blog earlier in the day) drew on his experience at the top of public service management, saying the proposals to withdraw check off agreements and cap facility time:
“…seem to be quite extraordinarily centralising, and completely disproportionate.”
Ministers should be engaging positively with workers and their representatives, not making their lives harder.
And politicising the role of the Certification Officer will serve only to embitter disputes. As former ACAS Chair, Labour peer Baroness Donaghy said:
“The Certification Office will not only become a highly political, sectarian and controversial organisation but will raise money from its own statutory activities. That is a conflict of interest.”
Many questioned the evidence for the Bill being advanced (or not – there was also annoyance that peers had still not been shown proper impact assessments for the Bill, this far into its passage) by the Government, and their motives for bringing such wide ranging changes. As Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Burt said:
“This Bill exists to pick a fight where no will exists on the part of unions or employers to fight.”
If the government’s true aim here is to boost participation in strike ballots, then it should stop dragging its feet and allow union members to vote in workplaces and online.
Online voting in particular was mentioned by many peers, unable to see why the Government should claim it’s not secure enough for unions, whilst the Conservative Party themselves feel able to adopt it. Crossbencher Lord Adebowale said:
“If ever there was some evidence the intention of this Bill was perhaps not entirely honourable, it’s in the refusal to allow electronic balloting.”
We’ll be working to keep the issues high in the public mind over the coming weeks of Lords debate (join our heartunions week of action from 8-14 February to help), and there is much scope here for peers to perform their traditional role of holding bad legislation to the light of proper scrutiny, regardless of party affiliation.
As Conservative peer Lord Balfe (current President of trade union the British Dietetic Association) closed a speech in which he raised several reasoned concerns with the Bill:
“… let us be careful to look at what we are doing and think about our responsibilities to democracy, which actually go further than our responsibilities to one or other side of the House.”
12 Responses to Lords second reading debate shows up the deep flaws in the #TUbill
Jan 12th 2016, 1:59 pm
It looks as though the government are systematically turning the country into a Conservative hegemony. Reducing Labour Party funding, emasculating the unions, central control of the education system and refusing to do anything about controlling Murdoch’s toxic press are ample evidence. Hypocritically, they wrap this up as expanding democracy.
Jan 12th 2016, 4:53 pm
if it was not for the Unions we would have no rights in the workplace at all. The Tory government have never had to face that.
Jan 12th 2016, 5:57 pm
Without the trade unions Cameron plan to make us work longer hours for a pittance thus making us no better than slaves would come to fruition.
Jan 12th 2016, 8:22 pm
This Governments alarming record provides no confidence that this ongoing attack on genuine democracy and citizens rights will benefit anything other than their own interests.
Jan 12th 2016, 8:27 pm
good men died that we got the right to strike we are not slaves or serfs anymore I believe in the trade unions united we stand divided we fall where would we be without them
Jan 12th 2016, 8:31 pm
I simply totally agree with the statement overarching this petition.
How many more hard-fought for-rights are going to be denied to the ordinary citizen of this country. This government no longer tries even to hide the manner in which they ride rough shod over the will and needs of the people. This country is becoming an unhappy and angry place to live.
Jan 12th 2016, 8:38 pm
Most of society at some stage have had their terms and conditions set with union negotiations, it is a fact that unionised industries are more productive, have less industrial accidents and in general have a more valued workforce. This bill will erode that core value of fairness and properly negotiated terms and conditions, it will enable the abuse of workers by cynical and exploitative employers for the ever popular bottom line.
Jan 12th 2016, 8:51 pm
Given the attacks on benefits, NHS and the Trade union bill et al by this Gov’t I call for a vote of no confidence in this current Gov’t.
How many will join such a vote or will we all meekly accept their dictats?
Jan 12th 2016, 11:41 pm
The TU Bill is undemocratic and will take our country into very dangerous waters. This government are taking away the rights of trade unions and their members. Hitler did the same thing. Why did my grandfather fight against a regime to find our own government deploying the same tactics as fascists. This bill is wrong, morally and democratically. This must not go through
Jan 13th 2016, 4:33 am
My Grandfather fought for the right to strike and to be a Union Member.I have been a Shop Steward, for most of my life and the Unions always try to work alongside management,wherever possible only taking action,when forced to.I will not allow the men who fought and died,for this cause to die in vain.
Jan 13th 2016, 8:16 am
If this bill goes through it will be time for all working people to stand and create a general strike to bring this government down. They are selfserving dictators and their greed must be stopped.
Jan 13th 2016, 12:00 pm
There is only one organisation that is stopping this power mad government from total ruling the country, it is the Trade Union Movement. The Tories believe that they have a god given right to rule.
It’s bred in them.