Statement by UNI Global Union On The Trade Union Bill

18th Meeting of the UNI World Executive Board

Nyon, 11-12 November 2015

Statement of Solidarity: The British Government’s Trade Union Bill

The UNI World Executive Board emphatically rejects the introduction of the Trade Union Bill by the British Conservative government. This proposed law is a malicious attempt to constrain democratic, industrial and political opposition to its austerity programme.

The proposed law is an uncompromising and unnecessary assault on the rights and freedoms of all workers in the UK. It is the work of a vindictive Conservative Party using the levers of government for its own political ends, seeking to outlaw legitimate protest, stifle free speech and choke off the resources of political opponents.

Workers across the UK have seen a fundamental shift from fair and decent jobs towards insecure employment models characterised by exploitative contracts, bogus self-employment, agency work and low pay.

The imposition of balloting thresholds for industrial action sets targets that few UK Members of Parliament have met in their own elections. It turns abstainers into “no” voters, effectively raising the bar of the threshold even further and imposing voting thresholds that have already been declared in breach of international law.

The UK general election in May 2015 produced a government elected by 26 per cent of the eligible electorate of the UK. There will be no turnout threshold for the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

The current system for balloting in the UK is the most draconian in Europe, with outdated methods and antiquated processes that have not moved with advancement in technology such as online voting systems. If the British government really wanted to increase participation in union ballots they would allow electronic balloting.

The refusal of the government in the UK to countenance secure electronic balloting for statutory ballots only serves to underline the hypocrisy of these proposals. There is no excuse for excluding statutory ballots from this now mainstream development.

The UNI World Executive Board is alarmed by the proposal to criminalise the code on picketing – equating picketing with public disorder is an indication of the real views of the government on trade unionism. Furthermore, suggestions that powers will be taken to intercept electronic communications during industrial disputes has profound civil liberties implications.

The possible criminalisation of workers involved in industrial action is blatantly unjust, as is the plan to allow the use of agency workers as strike breakers. The proposed repeal of the law prohibiting employers from using agency workers to substitute for striking workers will do nothing to aid a return to good employment relations and will put agency workers, many of whom are young people, in an invidious position.

The UNI World Executive Board believes that free trade unions can make a huge contribution to the economy and society. British trade unions are the first line of defence for millions of working people against the government’s austerity offensive.

The UNI World Executive Board urges all affiliates to join in solidarity with trade unions in the UK campaigning to stop this Bill. It is essential to prevent the rights of over six million British trade unionists being placed outside the law.

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