Trade Union Act: heavily amended but now law

The Trade Union Bill has been heavily amended, but has now become law, receiving the necessary Royal Assent.

UNISON lobbying has helped achieve concessions. We didn’t manage to defeat the entire Bill, but we did manage to remove several elements of it that would have irrevocably damaged the trade union movement.

We have helped defeat the attempt to stop employers processing union subs, which could have cost some unions millions to set up alternative ways of collecting subs.

The worst of the draconian rules on picketing, which Conservative MP David Davis suggested would not have been out of place in Franco’s Spain, have also been dropped.

But the Bill still includes clauses demanding that pickets have an identifiable and authorised supervisor. The double strike threshold in essential public services remains, imposing a turnout of 50% and then a ‘yes’ vote of at least 40% of all eligible voters.

tu bill

UNISON and others still want more concessions on e-balloting – something Tories deemed too vulnerable to fraud for unions, but used to select Zac Goldsmith as their candidate for London mayor – and on the right to take time in the week for union work.

So what did UNISON and other lobbyists achieve?

  • union members can continue to pay their subs via payroll if they wish. The government withdrew plans to ban public sector workers from having their union subs deducted from their wages (check-off);
  • plans to give the Certification Officer (who regulates trade unions) unnecessary power over unions and to charge unions to fund it were watered down;
  • plans to restrict union political funds (which fund our work with the Labour Party as well as local campaigns, such as saving local hospitals) were watered down. The changes in funding policy will now only apply to new members and the costs and effort will be much reduced;
  • the government agreed to a review of online methods for strike ballots, which would help increase turnouts;
  • plans to cap union public sector facility time have been watered down. They will now only happen in occasional cases, after at least three years of research and negotiation with ministers.

These added to concessions already made to:

  • drop extreme measures to restrict protest, pickets and social media campaigns;
  • abandon plans to make everyone on a picket show personal data to the police, employers or anyone who asks for it;
  • the 40% strike ballot threshold will not apply to union members working in ancillary services that support important public services.

Though this Bill is still a damaging and undemocratic piece of legislation, UNISON members should be proud of the campaign they have helped run.

The Guardian editorial said:

“It is still a nasty, vindictive piece of legislation. There is no justification for it beyond a partisan desire to weaken trade unions, and indirectly to weaken the Labour party, to the point where it becomes almost impossible for workers to defend their rights.”