E-ballots or not: fight the Trade Union Bill

A leaked letter from Business Innovation and Skills minister Nick Boles to Oliver Letwin and Chris Grayling shows the government is considering some ″concessions″ in order to ensure the Trade Union Bill is passed in the House of Lords.

The letter, dated 26 January, suggests that the government is worried that the threshold provisions for strike ballots will not be passed in the House of Lords. They propose to commit to conducting a review into allowing the use of electronic ballots for strikes, something the TUC and most unions have made a prominent part of their campaign against the bill.

This does not mean that e-ballots will become a reality. There is currently no time-frame on when any such review must report and no guarantee it will report in favour of e-ballots. Boles says in the letter ″I would not propose that we should also announce the period in which the review would report, although I expect us to come under pressure to do so.″

Tellingly the letter says ″there are areas of the Bill where we could make changed …. without significantly defeating its primary purpose.″

This is a clear response to the TUC′s campaign, which largely focussed on the need to e-ballots and the hypocrisy of the government allowing e-ballots for the Conservative party mayoral selection but not for unions. However the pitfall that always existed in this tactic has now come to bite us, we may be given e-ballots as a way of passing all the rest of the attacks on our class in the bill.

Our movement shouldn′t, and should never have, suggest we are anything but opposed to the Trade Union Bill full-stop. We are conceeding to the government meddling in our unions′ democratic processes.

The letter also suggests that the government may remove the requirement for picket supervisors to wear an identifying armband and provide their details, but the shift of illegal picketing to being a criminal offense not a civil one.

E-ballots or not the campaign against the Trade Union Bill must continue.

• Read the leaked letter: bit.ly/TUbillleak

• Unite adopts policy of defiance on Trade Union Bill: bit.ly/TUbillunite

Set back for Trade Union Bill

The House of Lords has taken issue with the parts of the Trade Union Bill which relate to party funding and have referred them for closer scrutiny in the committee stages.

However the Lords approved key measures which further restrict the right to strike. Overall, the Bill remains a hugh threat to trade union organising. Labour peers put a motion in the Lords which was passed by 327-234, that the bill was “not being conducted in the spirit of a report by the committee on standards in public life’s report, which urged cross-party talks to get a consensus on reforming party funding.”

The TUC is also claiming victory over the issue of the double threshold for key industries. Previously the government had said that ancillary staff in key industries (as well as the main staff) would be subject to a requirement of 50% minimum turn out and 40% yes vote of all members eligable to vote, in order to organise a strike. Documents presented to the Lords have dropped the reference to ancillary staff in these industries. This is far from winning a right to strike. We must continue urgent campaigning.

• Join Right to Strike activities during the TUC′s Heart Unions week

Pledge to fight the unjust law!

An unjust law is no law!

The Trade Union Bill is an undemocratic law that is designed to silence working people. If we do not kill this bill we will break their anti-union laws. I pledge to campaign in my trade union for it to continue organising strikes, picket lines and other forms of action even if it means breaking the law.

Sign the petition by downloading the sheet below (online petition coming soon)

An unjust law is no law

Protest against the Trade Union Bill on Monday 2 Nov

Join the Facebook event at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1735496933348883/

On Monday 2 November the TUC is holding a rally and lobby of Parliament against the Trade Union Bill.

Right to Strike and others are calling for a national day of action on the day of the TUC lobby.

https://www.tuc.org.uk/lobby-your-mp

There will be a protest outside Parliament at 5pm organised by the TUCG, Right to Strike, Unite the Resistance and the NSSN. We call for people to join the TUC lobby but we know that not everyone can make a lobby in work hours so please join this protest at 5pm.

We are also calling for protests across the country on this day. Will you organise one? This could be anything from running a street stall, leafletting a workplace or commuters, or staging a protest or rally. We will be listing details here of local actions — if you have planned one let us know the details!

Nottingham: RMT East Midlands Central will be leafletting train passengers in Nottingham in rush hour. More details to follow.

Newcastle: A protest will be held in Newcastle hosted by Newcastle Unison. More details to follow.

Lewisham: Protest at Lewisham Clock Tower at 6pm. More details to follow.

McCluskey: don’t trade our rights away!

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has offered the government a deal on the Trade Union Bill which amounts to accepting the bill in return for the introduction of electronic ballots.

The call for electronic ballots is not new. The TUC has, since the announcement of the bill, been making noise about the government allowing electronic ballots as a means of trade unions achieving higher turn outs in strike ballots. However many seem surprised by McCluskey′s ″olive branch″ letter to the prime minister.

It is not wrong to demand the restriction to postal balloting imposed on unions, which means members vote in isolation in their home, and is plagued with problems as members move house or just forget to post their ballot paper. However electronic ballots, though they would be better, do not necessarily mean workplace ballots, and may still mean ballots are conducted with members voting in isolation away from discussion with workmates.

Certainly the demand for electronic and/or workplace ballots should not be made as a trade for accepting government meddling in our unions′ democratic processes. Unions should be more democratic, more controlled from the workplace, but thats our job, not the state′s. Our demand should be that unions decide our democratic processes, that there should be not restrictions or rules about our ballots.

What about the other, crippling, elements of the bill — restrictions on picketing, lifting the ban on the use of agency workers to cover striking workers, and the attack on unions′ political funds. Would McCluskey accept all of these in return for electronic ballots? We hope not!

McCluskey′s letter follows the mode of the trade union leaders who talk of ″boxing clever″ and working with ″friendly amendments″ to the bill. Thinking we can beat the Tories′ class war by negotiations on small amendments between union leaders and the government is a fatal trap. The opposite is needed — building a mass movement to oppose the bill, persuade and educate the public, reenergise trade unions in the workplace to against cuts and for better pay and conditions, and prepare trade union members for the necessity of breaking the laws if they pass.

Contemporary motions submitted to Labour Party conference on right to strike and anti-union laws

At least four Constituency Labour Parties have submitted policy to the upcoming Labour Party conference (27-30 September, Brighton) on the Tories’ threats to trade unions and the wider issue of the right to organise and strike. The Right to Strike campaign believes similar policy has been submitted by other CLPs and is currently drawing up a list.

There are many important issues coming up at the conference, but in many ways this is the most important of all. Workers’ freedom to organise and take action, including to strike, is the crucial right which determines ability to affect everything else – from wages to social provision to the environment.

We’ve just heard that at least two of these have now been accepted onto the agenda which is brilliant. We will be at Labour Party conference on Sunday 27th to lobby delegates to vote for them and to get involved in the campaign.

***

Broxtowe CLP has submitted the following “contemporary resolution” on trade union rights to Labour Party conference.

Conferences notes

1. That at the start of August trade unions launched a “Kill the Bill” campaign against the Tories’ proposed legislative assault on trade unions and workers’ rights.
2. In early September it emerged that the Government is considering requiring those who take part in a picket to carry an authorisation letter and hand over their details to the police.
3. That in addition to even more severely curtailing the right to strike, the Trade Union Bill also attacks unions’ ability to organise and fund a political voice, including the vital link between the unions and our party.

Conference believes

1. That workers’ rights, including an effective right to strike, are essential both to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests and to democracy.
2. That the Tories are blatant hypocrites, requiring 40 percent or more for a strike though their party took office with the support of less than 25 percent of the electorate.

Conference resolves

1. To work with unions and organisations including the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and Right to Strike to oppose and attempt to stop the Trade Union Bill.
2. That the next Labour government should repeal these attacks (if they pass), repeal all the anti-trade union laws passed by the 1979-1997 Tory governments, and legislate for strong rights to unionise, win union recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action.
3. That the party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights.

***

And this from Chesterfield CLP:

Conferences notes

1. That at the start of August trade unions launched a “Kill the Bill” campaign against the Tories’ proposed legislative assault on trade unions and workers’ rights.
2. That in addition to even more severely curtailing the right to strike, the Trade Union Bill also attacks unions’ ability to organise and fund a political voice, including the vital link between the unions and our party.

Conference believes

1. That workers’ rights, including an effective right to strike, are essential both to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests and to democracy.
2. That the Tories are hypocritical requiring 40 percent or more for a strike when victory in parliamentary elections can be won on a much lower percentage of the vote.

Conference resolves

1. To work with the unions and with organisations including the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom and Right to Strike to oppose and attempt to stop the Trade Union Bill.
2. That the next Labour government should repeal these attacks (if they pass), repeal all the anti-trade union laws passed by the 1979-1997 Tory governments, and legislate for strong rights to unionise, win union recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action.
3. That the party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights.

***

This from Newark CLP:

Conference notes that at the start of August trade unions launched a “Kill the Bill” campaign against the Tories’ proposed assault on trade unions and workers’ rights.

Conference notes that, in addition to ending the ability to vote to strike by a straightforward majority, the Trade Union Bill renders strikes ineffective through longer notice periods, criminalisation of picketing, use of agency labour, punitive fines and state interference via the Certification Officer.

Conference notes that on 6 August it was announced that the legislation will attack public sector unions’ ability to organise by compulsorily ending automatic dues check-off arrangements. It also attacks unions’ right to fund a working-class political voice, including the vital link between unions and our party.

Conference believes that workers’ rights, including the right to strike, are essential to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests, and to democracy.

Conference believes that the Tories are blatant hypocrites, requiring 40 percent or more for a strike though their party took office with the support of less than 25 percent of the electorate.

Conference resolves

To work with the unions and campaigning organisations to oppose the Trade Union Bill.
That the party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights.

***

Labour International CLP, representing party members around the world in other countries, has submitted this:

Conference notes that at the start of August trade unions launched a campaign against the Tories’ proposed assault on trade unions and workers’ rights.

Conference notes that workers in other countries with successful, advanced industrial economies and a strong manufacturing base, such as Germany, enjoy wide-ranging employment and union rights.

Conference believes that these rights play a key role in these countries’ economic and social success.

Conference notes that on 6 August it was announced that the legislation will compulsorily end automatic check-off arrangements, affecting public sector unions. It also attacks unions’ right to fund the vital link between unions and our party.

Conference notes that legal advice made public at the end of August states the legislation would undermine freedom of association as set out in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Conference believes that workers’ rights, including the right to strike, are essential to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests, and to democracy.

Conference resolves

To oppose the Trade Union Bill through legal routes as well as by campaigning in conjunction with the TUC, affiliated unions and socialist societies.
That the next Labour government should repeal these measures if they pass, legislate for strong positive rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action.
That the party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights in line with ILO standards, along with the levelling-up of workers’ rights across the EU.

First Right to Strike (open) steering committee

Join us for an open steering committee meeting to co-ordinate national Right to Strike work on October 3rd in Manchester, before the national demonstration at Tory party conference.

If your branch has affiliated please send a delegate. If your branch hasn’t affiliated but you want to get involved please feel free to send someone along and let us know you intend to come.

We will meet at 6pm at a venue TBC in central Manchester. Prior to our meeting Manchester Trades Council are having a meeting about the Trade Union Bill, you are welcome to join us at it.

Please let us know if you or someone from your branch intends to come by emailing us at ourrighttostrike@gmail.com