Cameron to Tame Trade Unions


Prime Minister David Cameron and Business Secretary Sajid Javid will unveil a series of new rules to make strikes and protests illegal…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after unveiling the  portrait of  Baroness Thatcher at Saïd Business School in Oxford
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after unveiling the portrait of Baroness Thatcher at Saïd Business School in Oxford

Britain is heading for another wave of industrial protests as Business secretary Sajid Javid introduces reforms to criminalise unlawful picketing, and  workers strike.

This will be the biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years since Thatcher era. The new rules include criminalising picketing, allowing employers to hire strike-breaking agency staff and choke off the flow of union funds to the opposition Labour party,  the Guardian reported.

The government says it feels forced to act due to the number of strikes called on the London Underground, railways or in schools based on small turnouts or two-year-old ballot mandates.

The number of working days lost due to strikes was 704,000 in the 12 months to April 2015, but this is a far cry from the near 13m days lost through strike action on average in the 70s, the heyday of union militancy.

Labour leadership frontrunner Andy Burnham said he will  ‘mobilise’ street protests against the reforms.

Mr Burnham said the Government’s proposals were part of a ‘campaign of demonisation’ against unions and pledged to personally lead a campaign against them if he is elected Labour leader.

The scale of the reforms goes far wider than the previously trailed plan for strikes to be made unlawful unless 50% of those being asked to strike vote in the ballot.

In a set of proposals on a par with those introduced by Norman Tebbit in 1985, Mr Javid will make at least 40% of those asked to vote support the strike in most key public service like transport, health and education. In the case of 100 teachers asked to strike, the action would only be lawful if at least 50 teachers voted and 40 of them backed the strike!

The double threshold would have to be met in any strike called in health, education, fire, transport, border security and energy sectors – including the Border Force and nuclear decommissioning.

In further changes, Javid will:

  • Require all unions, not just those affiliated to Labour, to ask each existing union member whether they wish to pay the political levy and then repeat the question every five years. The £25m annual political fund income from 4.5 million political levy payers funds a wide range of political campaigning including being a chief source of funding for Labour.
  • Propose that unlawful or intimidatory picketing should become a criminal as opposed to civil offence and new protections should be available for those workers unwilling to strike. A named official will be required to be available at all times to the police to oversee the picket including the numbers on the line, currently set at six, in an existing code of conduct.
  • Compel unions to renew any strike mandate with a fresh ballot within four months of the first ballot and give employers the right to hire strike-breaking agency staff as well require a union to give the employer at least a fortnights’ notice before the industrial action starts.
  • Empower the government to set a limit on the proportion of working time any public sector worker can spend on trade union duties.
  • Give the government certification officer powers to fine trade unions as much as £20,000 for breaches of reporting rules including an annual audit on its protests and pickets. The certification officer will also have power to initiate investigations and will in future be funded by a joint levy of unions and employers
  • Require a clear description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear what they are voting for.