MPs vote to pass “vindictive” Trade Union Bill

Tim Lezard Europe, UK, FBU, Union busting

Parliament bannerUnions have vowed to continue fighting the Trade Union Bill after the controversial legislation last night passed its final hurdle in the House of Commons.

MPs voted 305 in favour of the Bill, with 271 against, giving the government a majority of 34. There was significant cross-party opposition, with four Tories – David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden), Sarah Wollaston (Totnes), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) and Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) – proposing or signing amendments.

The Bill now goes to the House of Lords where, if passed, it will introduce a 50% turnout requirement for strike ballots (requiring a 40% ‘yes’ vote for ‘essential public services’), force picket line organisers to wear an armband,  lift the ban on the use of agency workers during strikes, cap facility time and force members to opt in – rather than out – of a union’s political fund.

The government’s only concession was there will be twelve, rather than six, months before check-off is scrapped.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “The government has shown once again its determination to undermine the fundamental right to strike. Ministers simply want to make it harder for working people to get fair treatment at work.

“While today’s vote is disappointing, the campaign against the Bill is far from over. We will continue to oppose it as it goes through the House of Lords.

“As was shown in Parliament today, there is widespread concern about the threat this Bill poses to good industrial relations. It was welcome to see politicians from many parties recognise the damage it could do.

“This Bill is not fit for purpose and should have no place in a modern democracy.”

Many MPs yesterday spoke against the Bill. Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) said: “There is a local community activist in my constituency who is very proud of her roots.

“Her mum is Evelyn Allard, one of the Dagenham women who took industrial action in pursuit of equal pay. Does my honourable friend agree with me that under this Bill, as it stands, the employer might have prevented such an action from even starting, let alone succeeding, and therefore this Bill has a particular impact on women?”

Referring to the opt-out of the political fund, Paula Sheriff (Dewsbury, Mirfield, Denby Dale and Kirkburton) said: “Does my Honourable Friend agree that one of the worst aspects of the Bill is the way it is being applied retrospectively? Five million long-standing union members will have their political fund subscription cancelled without their permission or that of the union they joined. No wonder they want to scrap the Human Rights Act!”

Labour MPs who voted against the Bill in Parliament reacted with disappointment after the vote.  Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) tweeted: “Well, we’ve done all we can to stop the Bill – Tories have the numbers. Please keep opposing and lobby any Peers in your constituencies.”

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) asked: “What is the problem the Tory Trade Union Bill is trying to solve? Simply vindictive, nasty, cruel and political partisan legislation!”

Rachael Maskell (York Central) tweeted: “I’ve done my best to stop the Trade Union Bill going through the House of Commons. As ever, organise and join me to get rid of this government.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack tweeted: “Disgraceful! Organise. Fight back. Carry on.”

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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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