Open letter to Labour leadership candidates: Where do you stand on the Trade Union Bill?

Dear Andy, Yvette, Jeremy, and Liz,

You will be aware of the government’s proposed Trade Union Bill, which, if signed into law, will bring in turnout thresholds for strike ballots, an ‘opt-in’ system for political funds, and attacks on facility time and further restrictions on picketing.

We are active trade unionists from across the movement who have come together to form the ‘Right to Strike’ campaign in an attempt to defeat this bill, and we are asking for your support.

We believe that trade union rights are among the most fundamental democratic rights, and a hallmark of a free society. The rights to free association, free expression, and the right to withhold one’s labour and collectively bargain for better conditions all find their expression in the trade union movement. The past generations who built our movement, including the Labour Party, fought, struggled, and in some cases died to gain these rights.

No other voluntary organisations in the country face the levels of legal interference in their internal affairs that we in the trade union movement deal with. From Norman Tebbit’s Employment Act of 1980 through the Trade Unions and Labour Relations Act 1992 which sets much of the current terrain of industrial relations, the law has bit by bit restricted and outlawed what we believe to be legitimate trade union activity, including the ability of workers to take action in solidarity with others. The last Labour government shamefully refused to repeal the vast majority of these measures.

With the Labour leadership race in full swing, tens of thousands of affiliated members in the unions will be concerned about this proposed law and looking to the party to oppose it in and out of Parliament.

On behalf of the Right to Strike campaign, we therefore ask for clarification on your position on the following points:

1) Will you speak against, vote against, and publicly and energetically campaign against the bill, and urge parliamentary colleagues to do the same?

2) Should the bill pass, would a future Labour government led by you repeal it?

3) Would a future Labour government led by you repeal any of the existing trade union legislation?

4) Would a future Labour government led by you institute a Trade Union Bill of Rights, enshrining the right to strike into law, legalising sympathy strikes and secondary picketing, and allowing full political freedom to trade unions?

Thank you for your time,

Right to Strike campaign committee

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