Thompsons Solicitors give evidence to Parliamentary committee

ParliamentThe chief executive of Thompson’s Solicitors yesterday told MPs the Trade Union Bill is “unlawful, unwarranted and unworkable.”

In his evidence to the Trade Union Bill Committee, Steve Cavalier said it appeared the Bill had been designed specifically to make it difficult, if not impossible, to take the necessary steps to comply with its provisions.

Exposing fundamental flaws in the legitimacy and legality of the proposed Bill, he said: “It is an unwarranted ideological attack on internationally recognised rights in this country.”

He told the Committee the Bill contained unlawful, unwarranted and unworkable provisions that contravened the UK’s international law obligations and that if the government was serious about increasing participation in trade union ballots it would permit safe and secure electronic and workplace balloting.

Citing European Convention and contrasting the proposed laws with every other mainstream European state, Steve Cavalier pointed to the Bill’s requirements for trade unions to pass their details to police, provide a letter of authority and have a supervisor ‘readily contactable’ during picketing – provisions which are wholly discriminatory against unions and their members and drag the police into industrial disputes.

The requirement for union members to wear armbands during a protest and the powers given to the Certification Officer to act as inquisitor, prosecutor, judge, jury and enforcer were described by Steve Cavalier as ‘overtly authoritarian’ and ‘oppressive’.

He said: “This Bill is a full-frontal assault on the rights of working people. The right of workers to act collectively and ultimately, as a last resort to strike is fundamental and essential to any democratic society.

“The rights of workers and their trade unions are recognised across the world, yet this Tory government seems to believe it is above international law.”

Earlier, ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan accused the government of hypocrisy for trying to reduce red tape for business while trying to strangle trade unions with regulation.

He said: “It’s a variant of the Gulliver concept. That’s how the chairman of the National Coal Board described the Thatcher government’s legal strategy during the miners’ strike of 1984-85. It was designed, he said, to encourage multiple legal actions, each one ‘tying another tiny legal rope around the union until it woke one day and couldn’t move.’

“That’s what they’re trying to do to us. We represent ordinary, decent, hard-working men and women, doing a safety-critical job to ensure passengers get the first class public transport service they deserve, and we know this bill is designed to make things much worse for every one of them.”

* UnionNews will carry a full report of the debate later today.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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