I am proud to be a Trade Union Member, one of six and a half million people who are part of the UK’s largest voluntary organisation.
Trade Union’s already have a level of oversight and scrutiny of their activities which is demanded of no other organisation.
The Bill attacks the civil liberties and democratic rights of Trade Union members, it is politically motivated, and will deepen the most restrictive Trade Union laws in the Western world.
It will worsen industrial relations and push us further down the path to a more confrontational labour policy, which could potentially criminalise firefighters, nurses and teachers fighting to create fair and safer workplaces.
The Government are demanding a democratic standard not sought by any other organisation in relation to balloting, including many of the members in this House. In fact only 56 out of 330 Tory MPs elected at the 2015 General Election would have been elected had the same criteria been applied.
If the Government wish to enhance workplace democracy, they should engage with Trade Unions on the introduction of e-balloting and secure workplace balloting, which would help to increase participation and turnout in Trade Union ballots.
Concerns have been expressed about the Government’s proposals by Liberty, Amnesty International UK and the British Institute of Human Rights who have characterised this Bill as an unprecedented attack on workers basic civil liberties and human rights.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that condemns the Government’s outdated response, which is targeting yesterday’s problems instead of addressing the reality of modern workplaces.
Trade Union Reform is in reality a smokescreen to divert attention away from the Government’s policies of austerity and to limit the response of working people to object to the assault on their pay, pensions and working conditions.
In comparison, the Hedge Funds, Banking System and Financial Sector that promoted the casino economy that brought Britain and the World to the brink of financial disaster are allowed to wield their immense financial and political influence unfettered.
The disenfranchisement of working people over the last thirty years, with restrictive Trade Union laws, has seen real incomes fall as a share of GDP.
Our ‘recovery’ is once again being built on a private debt bubble, as austerity fails to eradicate the deficit or improve the income or standards of living for people in the UK.
The Government are imposing a level of scrutiny on Trade Unions by extending the powers of the Certification Officer, changing its role from an independent adjudicator into a ‘state spy’ allowing the Government to monitor how unions use their resources.
In addition to the significant and unnecessary new burdens, Trade Unions will also be expected to pay a levy to fund the Certifications Officers’ new role.
The Certification Officer will have new powers to impose financial penalties, scrutinise how unions use their political funds and for what purpose. They will be able to initiate their own investigation without a complaint from a Union member, as well as having the ability to seize union documents from national offices and branches.
It is a level of state interference that would not be accepted in any other sector.
Trade Unions do not only operate under the strictest rule in the Western World, their spending on political activities is also highly regulated in a manner not expected by any other organisations.
In order to fund political activities a separate political fund must be maintained.
Unions must secure the continued consent of members to maintain a political fund every ten years.
All union members currently have the opportunity to opt out of paying the political levy.
Despite these restrictions, Clause 10 of the Trade Union Bill will place further limitations on Trade Unions, changing union political funds from an ‘opt out’ to an ‘opt in’ system.
As happened in 1927, we are witnessing an ideologically motivated attack by the Tory Party to dramatically restrict funding to the Labour Party, limit the capacity of working people to be heard, as well as interfering in the internal affairs of democratically elected and accountable organisations.
If the Government are concerned about party funding, it is an issue in itself that should be debated.
However, the only political funding that concerns the Tories is that of opposition parties.
If this is a matter of principle, the Government should extend the existing restrictions and those proposed in this Bill to the Financial Sector, Hedge Funds and Investment Banks which bankroll the Tory Party.
If this is a matter of principle why shouldn’t shareholders be consulted on a regular basis and asked to opt-in prior to any donations, as well as coming under the scope of the Certification Officer to scrutinise how their corporate donations are used and for what purpose.
I do not believe the vast majority of MPs came into Parliament to curtail civil liberties. In relation to trying to damage and defund the Labour Party I would ask Tory MPs them to consider the words of their former leader, Sir Winston Churchill
“It has become a well-established custom that matters affecting the interests of rival parties should not be settled by the imposition of the will of one side over the other, but by an agreement reached either between the leaders of the main parties or by conferences under the impartial guidance of Mr. Speaker.”
House of Commons, 16th February 1948
In the Commons last week at Second Reading I ask all MPs to vote against the most partisan and political Bill I have seen in my time in the House.
Those with a genuine interest in enhancing workplace democracy and improving industrial relations should engage and work with Trade Unions, do not see them as the enemy.
As Pope Francis highlighted
“Trade unions have been an essential force for social change, without which a semblance of a decent and humane society is impossible under capitalism.”
Trade Unions aim to create safer and fairer workplaces for our constituents and address grievances in an amicable manner as and when they do arise.
Parliament should not limit Trade Union’s ability to undertake this invaluable work and therefore reject this Bill when it comes back to the Commons for Third Reading.