Motion 23 Industrial action ballots
Congress believes that the Trade Union Act 2016 is a direct attempt to limit the ability of unions to defend their members’ jobs and livelihoods.
Congress notes that the act requires 50% of those entitled to vote to turn out and that several unions, including PCS in a ballot returning a 79% yes vote for action, have seen their members denied their right to strike by the threshold requirement.
Congress also notes that, together with developments in methods of organising including the use of new digital technology, had union members had the opportunity to cast their votes using a range of methods more appropriate to the 21st century, they would have smashed the 50% threshold.
Congress notes that the Knight Review recommended that e-balloting should be tested as a means of ensuring “that ballot results are a true reflection of the views of those entitled to vote.” Yet, despite the legislative stipulation that the government must publish a response, no such response has been forthcoming.
Congress welcomes the Labour party’s pledge to repeal the act. Congress calls for the repeal of all the anti-union laws and, as an urgent first step, for the introduction of e-balloting.
Congress calls on the General Council to:
i. campaign for the introduction of online workplace and telephone voting in statutory ballots;
ii. demand that the UK government immediately commissions the pilots of e-balloting recommended in the Knight review
iii. call on the Labour party to include online balloting as a manifesto pledge.
Motion 64 Public service pensions
Congress condemns the disproportionate and unjustified decision of the treasury chief secretary in January to suspend the process for rectifying the downward breaches of the cost cap in public service pension schemes. Many scheme members are now denied the reductions in contributions and pension benefit improvements that are due to them, and are forced to continue overpaying for lesser benefits for an uncertain period, without a timescale and an unclear outcome.
Congress welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in June in favour of the FBU’s case, which found that the Westminster government’s transitional protection arrangements for pensions amount to unlawful discrimination.
The government argued that a potential read-across of the court ruling in favour of the FBU and judges’ cases about age discrimination in the transitional protection for older scheme members in 2014/15 means that other schemes are affected, and that “it is not now possible to assess the value of the current public service pension arrangements with any certainty.” But the government has also acted in a hypocritical manner, by imposing extra employment costs for pensions, as they did not defer the change to the discount rate from April this year, for the same reason.
Congress welcomes the intervention of the General Council, including the general secretary and president by meeting the treasury chief secretary in June, and the steps being taken following that meeting, for scheme specific talks with treasury officials to test assumptions and the scenarios displayed by different contributions, benefits and demography.
Congress calls on the General Council to ensure that the TUC organises joint union campaigning, including building for joint industrial action if necessary to protect defined benefit pension provision in public services and until the valuation suspension is reversed.