Yesterday afternoon the Government announced a climbdown on their proposals to restrict picketing and protest. It was a small but still an important move – but there is still much more to do to defeat the Trade Union Bill, which still contains significant clauses designed to attack trade unions and the Labour Party.
Annoucing the climbdon the TUC said: “The Government has dropped its proposal to make unions publish a protest and picketing plan 14 days in advance. This would have made unions spell out in great detail how they planned to campaign during a strike. It would have given employers and the police two weeksâ€™ notice of everything the union planned to do – where and when pickets would be held, how many would attend, even whether megaphones would be used. And it would have made unions declare online campaigning plans â€“ including what they were intending to post on Facebook and Twitter. And if they didnâ€™t stick to the plan, unions would have been liable for fines of up to ÂŁ20,000.
The government have also decided not to go ahead with proposals to create new criminal offences around picketing, to make every picketer wear an armband or give their name to the police â€“ more wins for our campaigning.
Crucially, the government have dropped their proposal for the picket organiser to have to carry a letter of authorisation with their name and address on, which would have to be shown to the police and any member of the public who asked to see it”.
But picket organisers will still have to wear an armband. Theyâ€™ll still have to give their name and address to the police. And theyâ€™ll still have to carry a standard letter from the union authorising the picket. So concerns about blacklisting and victimisation may be reduced but they haven’t gone away.
And, more widely, from giving employers powers to use scab agency workers to replace striking workers and new opportunities to win injunctions and damages, the trade union bill is still a fundamental attack on the right to strike and to organise â€“ in ways that I have set out time and over again.
The bill gets its final Commons vote this coming Tuesday, before it moves on to the Lords. Concern has been growing amongst government backbenchers. At second reading five Conservative MPs speak on the bill, with David Davis MP threatening to oppose at third reading unless it was changed.
The TUC says: “Will this last minute compromise be enough to buy back the votes of worried Conservative MPs next week? And convince the sceptical Lords in the weeks that follow? We shall see. And the TUC will continue to fight this threat to the right to strike all the way”.
If you havenâ€™t yet written to your MP about the trade union bill, there is still time to do so before the final reading on 10 November. And if you have, please let them know these changes don’t go anywhere near far enough.
- With recorded strikes at a historic low, what is the real purpose of the Trade Union Bill?
- How will allowing for the recruitment of agency labour during an industrial dispute improve an already tense situation?
- It is unprecedented that a governing party would use its parliamentary majority to legislate to cut off funding for the opposition party, is this not anti-democratic?
- Given the police do not wish to be given any new powers, why is the Government pressing ahead with the proposals for identifiable â€śpicket supervisorsâ€ť who must show a â€śletter of authorityâ€ť to almost anybody who asks seem draconian and could lead to a new round of â€śblacklistingâ€ť?
- Why is the Government refusing to accept secret, supervised workplace ballots and electronic balloting for union members taking part in industrial action ballots?