Attacks on Workers Rights Must Stop

Austerity March - London, May 2015The Conservatives, on one hand, say they are the new party of the working people – however with one policy alone, they are showing that they are anything but the party of the working people – in fact they are the anti-workers party if their latest proposed legislation with regards to the trade unions is anything to go by.

The new Trade Union Bill, pioneered by Sajid Javid, is not only totally unnecessary but actually completely damaging to workers up and down the country.

The alleged justification?  That strikes are ripping the country apart and that they are disrupting the ‘average hard working persons life’.

The reality?

Strikes are at their lowest levels for decades

Given the fact that the justification for this change in law is completely untrue, that should be enough in itself to ensure this legislation does not reach the statute book.

Minimum 50% turnouts, 40% support for public sector industrial action?  Well, it seems great on the surface.  Although the irony isn’t lost on me that the government proposing this claims supreme authority over the United Kingdom with 24% of the votes.

Industrial action, in many companies and industries now is rarely, if ever taken.  It’s something which is always considered by unions and it’s members to be a last resort.

We’re not talking about unions taking industrial action based on the fact the boss isn’t buying their employees their favourite choccy biscuit.  We’re talking about unions taking industrial action, supported by a majority of those that turnout, over serious issues – including access to basic sanitary facilities, the implementation of health and safety rules in accordance with UK law, enforcing rights to the minimum wage and highlighting unsafe working practices that can put employees, but also users of these companies’ services and products in danger.

Also, the one sided ‘reform’ of political donations – restricting the amount that unions can pay political parties (read: The Labour Party) is totally ridiculous – unless the Tories would like to place restrictions on their millionaire hedge fund donors…. no, didn’t think so.

How about a restriction on party political donations from individuals that don’t pay the tax that is due under UK law?  No, don’t think the Tories would like that one either.

I think the key point that is being missed here by the government, but one that has been acknowledged and implemented by companies up and down the UK is:

Good employers have nothing to fear from Trade Unions

Quite simply, the only justification for, and the real reason behind, the Trade Union Bill is an outright attack on the working class by a Conservative party who’s backbenches are largely influenced by Thatcherite politics.  In addition, it is using government power in an attempt to damage the opposition Labour Party and related parties that stand up for workers rights.  The use of government power in such a way is so beyond morally questionable that it actually beggars belief that a Conservative Party in the 21st century would actually think that it would get away with this in the long term.

What Will The Changes Mean?

Good question – the government will have you believe that this will reign in Trade Unions (when there’s actually no evidence to support this needs to happen) and that it’ll reduce strikes and everyone will be happily ever after.

However, back on planet Earth – what will the implications of passing the Trade Union Bill be?:

  • Working class people will struggle to assert and ensure that their rights, as governed by UK law, are implemented – and will have no effective legal recourse to challenge some of Britain’s worst employers.
  • Workers rights over time will likely be diminished, skewing employment law and taking us back decades… and ultimately centuries.
  • There will be more strikes!
  • A rift will once again start to open between many employers and employees – rifts which both employers and employees have battled for years to close and work together to create strong businesses, with strong workforces and therefore a strong economy.

More Strikes?  But that’s impossible!

Whilst an interesting point to consider, due to the proposed legislation tightening up the rules for striking, believing that this legislation will lead to less industrial action as time goes on is a bit fanciful on the governments part.

Unite – the UK’s largest trade union, has already taken action in light of the proposals.  The words “in so far as legally possible” have been removed from the Unite constitution – the basic principles by which it’s members agree to work as a collective and movement.

What this means is that where previously, there was a commitment to, for example, only legally take strike action, there is now the situation where due to the constitutional change that Unite would accept their membership taking action which is potentially, or most definitely illegal.

This means that although the Trade Union Bill would make some action illegal, Unite would no longer rule out that action if there was a need for it and the membership wanted it.  Therefore, this would make the power of the Trade Union Bill no existent.

Current Trade Union law forbids general strikes or sympathetic strikes.  With such an large attack on the symbol and movement of working class people, do not be surprised if this legislation passes, that Unions could group together and decide to take co-ordinated industrial action resulting in a general strike.

Until the government wake up and smell the coffee, and see that the issues causing strikes should be discussed and a solution reached rather than some draconian changes to strike laws all we can expect as a country is a new era of industrial discontent and an increase in strike action taken by working men and women on a scale that the country hasn’t witnessed in a generation.