Cramlington Labour Councillor Laura Pidcock presented the motion against the Trade Union Bill to Northumberland County Council today.
Defending the right to strike
Northumberland County Council UA notes:
In February 2015 the United Nations agency the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reaffirmed its belief that ’without protecting a right to strike, Freedom of Association, in particular the right to organise activities for the purpose of promoting and protecting workers’ interests, cannot be fully realised.’
In July 2015 the Conservative government announced its intention to change legislation affecting trade unions and their members to make it harder to win ballots for industrial action. This will only be lawful if there is a 50% turnout among trade union members entitled to vote in addition to a simple majority voting for industrial action
The Conservatives seek a further requirement for those working in ‘important public services’ to secure the support of 40% of all trade union members. Non-voters will be counted as ‘against’ industrial action which is contrary to ILO guidance. This means that on a 50% turnout, 80% will have to vote for industrial action for it to be lawful in many public services
No such thresholds apply to elections in local government, for police and crime commissioners, or in European or Westminster elections
The government has refused the request of trade unions to make electronic balloting or secure workplace balloting legally permissible to increase turnout this way
Northumberland County Council UA further notes:
The proposed Conservative legislation will also introduce greater restrictions for picketing. These include requirements on unions to inform the police of the name of a picket supervisor and ensure they have a letter of authorisation they must be required to carry, inform the police of how many will be expected to attend a picket line and what banners or materials will be used as well as notify the police of details of how trade unions intend to use social media during a dispute
The Conservative government wants to remove the ban for employers to employ agency workers during a period of lawful industrial action
The government wants to grant Ministers the power to reduce the amount of facilities time agreed by employer and the workforce which is in place to ensure adequate workplace representation
Trade unions take industrial action for a wide range of reasons including defending wages and pensions, conditions at work and safety
Northumberland County Council UA believes:
The right to strike and protest are fundamental rights which should be respected in a free and democratic society
The Conservative government’s bill will undermine constructive employment relations and that harmonious industrial relations are achieved by meaningful engagement and not additional legal restrictions to trade union members Workplace representation ensures access to justice and has benefits across whole organisations
The government’s Trade Union Bill is part of a disturbing trend to erode civil liberties and inhibit the right to speak out or protest against the government
The Conservative government’s Trade Union Bill is a politically-motivated attack on trade unions and could have negative consequences for wider civil society
Northumberland County Council UA resolves:
To write to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills stating the council’s opposition to their Trade Union Bill and to participate in any consultations Support the Northern TUC and civil liberties groups in campaigning to defend the right to strike and oppose the Trade Union Bill
Continue to value the importance of meaningful workforce engagement and representation through trade unions”.
Cllr Scott Dickinson Business Chair and Drudge Bay County Councillor said: "today I was proud of all my fellow Labour County Councillors today, including some Libdems and Independants supporting Labour Cllr Laura Pidcock's motion to Full Council against the Tory Governments Trade Union Bill. Passionate speeches from many sticking up for working peoples rights and telling stories about their lifetime experiences of being part of and needing support from Trade Unions and how important it is the rights of workers to stand together must be protected. Needless to say the Tories suggested we were misguided and such like voting against the rights of general workers just like their National Counterparts, interestingly they were all silent apart from their Leader who had a half hearted go at defending the policy"