Why is the Trade Union Act important?
The right to join a trade union is a human right, and strike action by trade union members have won many of the workers’ rights we enjoy today. There are already extensive rules governing trade unions, and these were increased under the new legislation.
The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent on 4 May 2016.
Liberty campaigned against many of the Act’s most offensive provisions. Below is a summary of the outcomes in some of these hard fought battles.
For further information on being a member of a trade union, please refer to the TUC website.
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Withdrawals and Amendments
Some of the draft Bill’s most aggressive proposals to regulate picketing were dropped following consultation, including:
- A requirement for trade unions to provide picket plans to the police and employers two weeks in advance of strike action
- Restrictions on unions’ use of social media
- The creation of a new criminal offence of intimidation at pickets.
Under considerable parliamentary pressure, there was a further comedown on rules relating to picketing, with picket supervisors no longer required to wear that icon of discrimination – the armband – to identify themselves.
Liberty welcomes the Government’s decision to abandon these unnecessary and disproportionate proposals.
Also scrapped was the proposal to abolish “check off” – the system used by employers in the public sector to collect union subscriptions directly from wages.
The Government also rowed back on plans to restrict the use of union funds for political purposes and introduced certain safeguards on the role of the union regulator.
Whilst the Trade Union Act has been considerably watered down, it will still make it harder for trade unions and their members to take strike action, in particular by requiring ballot thresholds to be met in order for action to take place.
The Government has also left space for secondary legislation to be introduced at a later stage. In particular, the door is open for laws which will:
- Allow employers to take on temporary staff to cover for staff on strike and;
- Limit facility time in public services (facility time is time spent by employees who are also union representatives on activities involved in representing union membership)
Liberty remains strong in opposing both of these measures, which would have an extremely negative effect on the rights of union members.