Parliamentary committee to look at union political funds

21 January 2016

A cross-party committee will scrutinise the government's proposals on union political funds, in its deeply damaging trade union bill, following a hefty defeat for the Tories in the House of Lords.

Last night peers voted by 327 votes to 234 to set up a special committee to consider the government’s attack on the Labour party's funding in the bill.
The legislation would force all trade union members to individually 'opt in' every 5 years to pay into their union's political fund, whereas the current provisions run on an 'opt out' basis. The move is deliberately designed to undermine the Labour party's funding from affiliated unions, although it will impact on all unions with a political fund and threatens the ability of unions to lobby politically to defend their members' interests.
Political funds are already highly regulated and require a full membership ballot before being set up and a further ballot every 10 years to continue. The additional 5-year opt-in places a substantial extra administrative burden on unions and individuals alike, with the desired effect to deter members from making the small monthly contribution.
PCS members recently voted decisively to keep the PCS political fund with 91% in favour. However, if this legislation goes ahead, members would be in the farcical position of having to agree 4 or 5 times in a 10-year period to the political fund.

What happens now?

Peers from all parties, and none, voted to set up the cross-party committee to scrutinise the unjustifiable proposals on political funds in the bill. A select committee will spend the next six weeks considering the issue of party funding before reporting back by 29 February.
The committee stage of the bill starts in the Lords on 8 February.
The bill is the biggest attack on the trade union movement for 30 years and would place severe restrictions on how unions operate, especially our right to strike.
The UK already has a highly restrictive framework of trade union legislation. The bill has 3 main impacts on unions:

  • Places further significant restrictions on the right to strike
  • Places significant financial constraints on the ability of affiliated and non-affiliated unions to run political campaigns
  • Places significant administrative and financial burdens on unions.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said of last night's debate: "This debate has exposed once again how ill-thought through the government's trade union bill is. At its second reading, widespread concerns were raised across the House about the threat this bill poses to good industrial relations and fair treatment at work.
"It is essential that ministers listen and rethink their plans before lasting damage is done. Ministers should be engaging positively with workers and their representatives, not making their lives harder."
Add your name to the TUC petition against the bill. ?#‎TUBill?

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