Frances O’Grady says unions will continue to oppose the Bill as it goes through Parliament.

Tim Lezard Europe, UK,

CBVFGBMQFEAWHkdcVQAdCxNe-1The TUC has said the fight to kill the Trade Union Bill is far from over after the controversial law was last night passed by 33 votes.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The record books will show that this government’s first major act in office has been to attack the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

“While tonight’s vote is very disappointing, the campaign against this Bill is far from over.

“We will continue to oppose it at each stage through Parliament. And it was good to hear MPs from across the house recognise the huge threat this bill poses to civil liberties and fair treatment at work.

“Ministers have underestimated the public. People can see that allowing employers to bus in agency temps to break strikes will tip the balance of power in favour of employers.

“And requiring unions to report to the police and employers what they will post on Facebook or Twitter two weeks before a strike is an obvious waste of police time.”

TUC polling published last week found that:

  • 65 per cent of the public think employers using temporary workers as cover during strikes will give permanent workers less power to defend their pay and conditions at work.
  • 77 per cent of the public think making it compulsory for unions to give two weeks’ notice if they intend to use a loudspeaker or carry a banner during a strike is a “bad use of police time”.
  • 72 per cent think forcing unions to submit what they are planning to post on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs during a strike two weeks in advance to the police would be a “bad use of police time”.
  • 60 per cent of the public (and 79 per cent of trade unionists) think making the lead person on a peaceful picket line give their name to their employer will have a negative effect on that person’s career.

During yesterday evening’s debate David Davis MP said: “I have some sympathy with much of the criticisms of the bill […] I particularly am offended by the idea that a picket organiser needs to give his name to the police. This to me is a serious restriction of freedom of association.”

Mr Davis said he would vote against the bill at its third reading if these measures were still in the bill.

On Thursday 10 September former Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Trade Union Bill was “vindictive” and had “no evidence base at all”.

And on Monday 7 September, leading human rights groups warned that the Trade Union Bill is “a major attack on civil liberties in the UK”. In a joint statement Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights said the bill “would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.”

On Friday 21 August, the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) – an independent body appointed by the government which verifies the costs and savings of proposed changes to businesses and civil society – slammed the government’s trade union proposals impact assessments as “red – not fit for purpose”.

The RPC found that the government had not made the case for any changes in the law on trade union picketing and protest – including proposals to make unions give 14 days’ advance notice of whether their members will use Twitter or Facebook during protests.

The RPC said that ‘there is little evidence presented that there will be any significant benefits arising from this proposal’ and ‘the definition of the problem currently appears weak and must be substantiated’.

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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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