Trade Union Bill backed by MPs

Trade Union Bill easily clears latest hurdle in the Commons, as TUC warns of impact on “productivity, pay and demand”

By Kevin Schofield

15 Sep 2015

MPs have given their backing to a controversial new law aimed at making it harder for workers to go on strike.

The Trade Union Bill cleared Second Reading by 317 votes to 284 after a heated Commons debate, bringing it one step closer to the statute book.

Among its measures are a requirement that at least 50% of workers take part in a strike ballot before it is legal.

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The union regulator, known as the Certification Officer, will also be able to fine unions which do not comply with new rules on the reporting of planned industrial action.

The bill also seeks to double the amount of notice unions must give before a strike can be held, as well as allow employers to replace striking staff with agency workers.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said it was “the latest stage in the long journey of modernisation and reform”, and would stop ordinary people’s lives being disrupted by strike action.

He said: “It will put power in the hands of mass membership, bring much-needed sunlight to dark corners of the movement and protect the rights of everyone in this country as well.”

But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady accused the Government of trying to “cut Britain’s unions off at the knees”.​

Addressing the organisation’s annual congress in Brighton, she said: “History will remember this Conservative Trade Union Bill as the biggest attack in more than 30 years, not just against trade unions, but against our best chance of raising productivity, pay and demand.”

Speaking at the same event on Tuesday, Dave Penman – general secretary of the FDA union representing senior civil servants – attacked the government's decision not to allow electronic balloting of members by unions, which unions say would boost turnout and support the government's stated aim of increasing democracy in the organisations.

“This government has no answer when it comes to why it will not introduce ballot reform," Penman said.

"Current minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock, when pressed yesterday, said he didn’t rule it out. Sorry Minister, we demand that you rule it in."

He added: “I urge the TUC to expose the hypocrisy of a government steeped in Orwellian double-speak, intent on denying the most basic democratic rights to union members.”

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