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Cameron’s Trade Union Bill is part of the government’s privatisation agenda

SJThe Conservative’s Trade Union Bill will have its first reading in parliament today. It has been described in today’s Daily Mail as “Cameron’s War on the strike bullies” and has been justified by the Business Secretary as “protecting working people” from the trade unions.

The bill would impose a minimum 50% turnout, public sector strikes would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote,and abusive behaviour, such as calling somebody a scab would become a criminal offence.

The bill is not just an attack on the rights of trade unions, it is an essential component of the government’s strategy to privatise the remaining public services by severely impeding the ability of public sector workers to challenge attacks on their pay and working conditions that are planned by the government. It is necessary for the government to drive down wages and reduce pension contributions in order to make services attractive and profitable when they are put out to tender. If these services aren’t profitable then no company will bid for the contract.

The public sector has much higher union density (56%) compared to the private sector (14%) so it is in a better position to negotiate and take industrial action over wages, pensions and working conditions. This is reflected in the pay gap between the public and private sector which in terms of salary and pensions is around £5,000. The effect of the bill will be a dramatic increase in inequality as workers find it nearly impossible to take industrial action to defend their salaries and pensions while companies enrich further enrich themselves.

The correlation between trade union membership and the percentage of UK income taken by the one percent is a fact even recognised by the International Monetary Fund. But the correlation exists not just because of the decline in trade union membership, but because of the major attacks on trade union rights in the 1980s and 1990s by the conservative government.

Between 1980 and 1993 the Conservative Government passed seven successive employment acts. among other things these acts restricted the number of people who could attend a picket line to six; banned secondary action, flying pickets, political strikes, closed shops, and expelling members; imposed postal ballots for strikes and a minimum six-week delay between a ballot and the date of the strike; and made it possible to sue trade unions for “damages.”

These damaging attacks on the trade unions were never reversed by Labour when it was in power from 1997 to 2010. Tony Blair even boasted that Britain’s labour laws were the most restrictive in Europe.

Labour MPs tried in 2006 to undo some of the damage by introducing the Trade Union Freedom Bill. The primary sponsor of the bill was John McDonell and it was signed by Jeremy Corbyn. Noticeably absent from the list of signatories of the Trade Union Freedom Bill are Labour leadership contenders Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper. Liz Kendall was not elected until 2010 and so couldn’t have signed it.

All four Labour leadership candidates have said they would repeal the Trade Union Bill if they led a Labour government, but this is not enough: all of the anti trade union legislation that was introduced by the Conservative Party in the 80s and 90s should be repealed – a position only supported by Jeremy Corbyn.

If the bill is passed it will be five years before a potential Labour Government could repeal it, so in the meantime Labour MPs must support all strike action taken by the unions, including any illegal action, else the country they may inherit in 2020 will be in a dire state.


  1. swatantra says:

    Now is the time to start campaigning for State Funding for all democratic Parties.

    1. Billericaydickie says:

      Which leaves out pterry much all of the left as they want a Marxist dictatorship/s.

      1. John P Reid says:

        Billerickie Dickie/Dave Roberts/Terry Fitz comments can be found here

    2. James Martin says:

      Having my taxes pay for WMD’s and regularly dropping lots of very expensive bombs on brown people for decades now is bad enough, but you want me to fund the Tories and UKIP too swatanta? Unbelievable. We as a movement can fund ourselves well enough thanks, so long as we oppose these attacks on OUR democracy.

    3. swatantra says:

      We do have a
      ‘Campaign for Labour Party Democracy’ and a ‘Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform’ but as far as I know, no ‘Labour Campaign for State Funding’ LCSF. I think I might set one up.
      Labour is going to have to seriously think about where its funding is going to come from, if TU -ists have to specifically ‘opt in’, which I’m actually in favour of; its a more honest approach instead of just taking money off of them.

    4. David Ellis says:

      So you are in favour of making trade unionists opt in but also in favour of forcing tax payers to fund political parties. Bit of a contradiction there but then you are just a troll.

  2. gerry says:

    Patrick – in 2015 over a half of trade unionists voted either Tory or UKIP, two parties explicitly committed to reducing trade union rights, which Cameron is now duly doing. Discuss!

    1. Billericaydickie says:

      Discuss, the loony left? You’re having a laugh mate!

    2. Robert says:

      Did you count the trade union voting then, do you have evidence of the number of trade Union people voting I would be interested.

  3. Billericaydickie says:

    The title of this article is wrong. It should be ” I just want to get to work because I am on a low wage/zero hours contract and I need to feed my family. Stop the conspiracy theories and deal with the world that real people live in.

    1. Gary Brooke says:

      Er, yes, do. And the real world for people on ‘a low wage/zero hours contract’ is crap and after another five years of Tory rule it will be even crapper.
      And that’s not a ‘conspiracy theory’. Anyway, thanks for popping over from the Daily Mail forums. I had a good chuckle.

  4. David Pavett says:

    I don’t think that the government should be legislating on hiw trade unions run their affairs and doing so is contrary to the idea of “civil society”.

    Having said that I would really like someone to explain to me why the threshold of 50% voting and 40% of those eligible to vote would make it “nearly impossible to take industrial action to defend their salaries and pensions”.

    I have helped to organise a number of strikes over the years and I would never have been satisfied with support below those thresholds.

    So just why does Patrick Smith claim that these thresholds would make strikes ‘nearly impossible”? He provides no reasons at all for his claim. Surely some argument is needed on such an important point.

    1. Robert says:

      Strikes have gone on with less according to some, when ever we had a strike we did it with a show of hands, then we had on site ballots now it’s postal ballots. We need to have internet voting with maybe an independent counting scheme.

      But the issue about striking would always be in the Tories minds but would labour remove the legislation if they win again some how I doubt it. of course depending on whom wins.

      1. David Pavett says:

        I am afraid that I have no idea what point you are making. Can you explain it?

  5. Laban Tall says:

    For once the Left is on the right side of an argument, although given the disasters they’ve inflicted on the British working class (and union strength) over the last 45 years it’s a bit late to moan about the working out of historical forces they helped set in motion.

    “… a minimum 50% turnout, … would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote”

    As long as they propose to apply the above rules to Parliamentary , EU, local government and mayoral elections, not to mention the police commissioner votes… I wonder how full Westminster would be with those rules ?

  6. David Pavett says:

    It is a pity that no one, starting with Patrick Smith, has tried to answer my question above: just why would the operation of the 50% and 40% thresholds make strikes “nearly impossible”?

    This assertion is made again and again by union representatives without any explanation. I am asking for one, so far without success.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Patrick Smith, you are standing for a place on the National Policy Forum. With that in mind would it not be a good idea to answer questions put directly to you about something you have written?

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