Mark Serwotka: trade union bill is attack on society

15 July 2015

The government has launched fresh attacks on PCS by attempting to rush through its trade union bill which places severe restrictions on how unions operate.

The bill which began its journey into law by being presented into the House of Commons by business secretary Sajid Javid this afternoon, represents the biggest attack on trade unions and industrial action in 30 years. It is one of the final pieces of legislation to be presented before the parliamentary summer recess next Tuesday.

Under the proposals the Tories plan to:

  • impose a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballot
  • insist public sector strikes have the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote - doubling the threshold that would have to be met in any strike called in health, education, fire, transport, border security and energy sectors
  • force unions to give employers 14 days' notice of strike action
  • allow employers to bring in agency staff to cover for striking workers
  • impose a 4-month time limit for industrial action mandates
  • criminalise 'unlawful' pickets - everyone on a picket line with more than 6 people
  • require all unions to ask each existing member whether they wish to pay the political levy and then repeat the question every 5 years
  • compel unions to appoint a person to supervise picketing
  • empower the government to set a limit on the proportion of working time any public sector worker can spend on union duties
  • give the government certification officer powers to fine trade unions as much as £20,000 for breaches of reporting rules, including an annual audit on its protests and pickets.

One rule for one

Javid would not have been elected if the same rules applied to him.

In his own Bromsgrove constituency in May's general election he was supported by just 38.3% of the 74,000 people eligible to vote in his seat.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "It is rank hypocrisy to introduce arbitrary restrictions on union ballots that will not apply to MPs, MEPs, councillors and police commissioners, and they will have no legitimacy when they scrape through parliament on a wafer thin majority.

"We have repeatedly asked ministers to work with us to make it easier for people to vote in workplaces and using technology, and they have refused. This is not an attack on trade unions, it is an attack on society as a whole, as we know that weaker unions means greater inequality."

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