In response to significant opposition the Government has rethought their approach to the Trade Union Bill, and has made significant concessions.
The Government has tabled an amendment restricting the requirement to opt-in to political funds to new union members only, has conceded that union members should not be required to renew their opt-in after five or ten years, and agreed to pilot e-voting for strike ballots.
This follows on from the concessions already offered by the Government on ‘check-off’, ballot thresholds, ballot notice periods, expiry of the ballot mandate and the identification of picket supervisors.
In response to the Government’s amendments, David Davis MP said:
“The Government has done the right thing in rethinking its proposals and coming up with amendments that will be acceptable to all sides. I and others have had multiple discussions with the minister about our concerns, and the Government’s concessions on the points we raised are to be welcomed.
There has been widespread criticism of this Bill, but this is an important piece of legislation, one that brings our trade union legislation into the 21st century. There is much that is good in this Bill, and the Government has now gone a long way towards addressing those parts of the Bill which were not good.
The changes to political fund opt-ins could have deprived the Labour Party of a significant amount of funding for no good reason. Such a move would have set a dangerous precedent for whichever party is in government to use their power to undermine the opposition. The Bill is much improved now the Government has withdrawn the more controversial changes to political funding.
It was also nonsensical for the Government to reject e-voting. Electronic voting has been shown to be secure and reliable, as well as increasing voter participation. Given that low voter participation in strike ballots can be one of the most controversial aspects of a strike, it did not make sense for the Government to block attempts to improve it. So the Government’s concession on this issue is commendable.
These concessions come on the back of a number of other recent concessions that the Government has made.
The plans to end the right of workers to pay union subscriptions by deducting them from their wages were ill-conceived – ‘check-off’ is a long-standing practice, and its abolition could have caused unnecessary damage to unions and their members. The Government was right to listen to concerns and amend the Bill accordingly.
Similarly, the concessions in the Bill on the practical aspects of strike ballots have been sensible and will improve industrial relations. The Government has rightly reacted to widespread concerns about the proposed restrictions to protect this vital right for working people.
The requirement for picket supervisors to wear armbands would have a disgraceful requirement for a modern democratic state. The amendment to allow picket supervisors simply wear ‘something’ to be readily identifiable is a move in the right direction.
Trade Union legislation is often partisan and controversial. But due to the Government’s considerable concessions, this Bill is now a far better piece of legislation than when it was first submitted, and it should now receive the support from across Parliament that it deserves.”