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.


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.

Right to Strike National Meeting – 31 October in Birmingham

rts plaacardsAs the Trade Union Bill winds its way through parliament, trade unionists and campaigners are getting active to build the resistance to the new laws. Right to Strike has been set up to network across branches and trade unions to co-ordinate the fightback and if the bill becomes law, how to make it impossible to impose it.

We are having a national meeting on 31 October in Birmingham to organise the RTS campaign across the country. If you want to submit a motion to the meeting then please email us at ourrighttostrike@gmail.com by 28 October.

Venue is at the Wellington, 37 Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham B2 5SN from 12 – 5pm
Please book your transport now so we can keep costs down.

You can sign up on our Facebook page here if you like!

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.