As Chair of GMB's Parliamentary group I want to make sure members are kept up to date about what is happening in Parliament. A big topic of debate, and something I've been spending a lot of time on, is the Trade Union Reform Bill. I've worked on the Bill at every stage, and sat on the committee that scrutinised the legislation line by line.
On Tuesday 10th November the Bill reached report and third reading stage in the House of Commons (that's the final stage where it can be amended and debated, if it passes this stage it goes to the House of Lords for consideration). I attended the whole debate, together with Labour colleagues, armed with the arguments to demonstrate the vindictive, pernicious nature of this Bill and its impact on over 6 million trade unionists across the country. We were united in our opposition to the Bill – as we have been since the Bill was published.
The Government say this Bill is a priority for them. Yet during the four hours of debate, about six Tory MPs were in the chamber and even fewer actually contributed to the debate. Those that did displayed a complete ignorance of the workplace and how successful companies and public authorities work in partnership with trade unions to increase productivity, profit, service quality and safe workplaces.
I contributed six times to the debate, with my contributions including:
- Exposing the lack of knowledge and expertise of Government witnesses who gave evidence during the Committee stage of the Bill.
- The lack of evidence to support Tory allegations of intimidation when casting ballots. This was being used as a reason not to allow union members to cast their ballots on-line in front a computer at home or on their mobile phones.
- How trade unions are the problem solvers, rather than problem causers.
- How the Trade Union Bill for the first time in our country, creates two tiers of civil liberties and human rights. Trade union members will have less liberty than the rest of the population.
- How the Bill breaches the European Convention of Human Rights and the temporary inconvenience that strikes of last resort cause, is not a legitimate reason for restricting the right to freedom of association under the Convention.
Our front bench team, led by Kevin Brennan MP (who has just taken over the role from Stephen Doughty MP) tabled a number of amendments to the Bill but without support from at least a handful of Tories, they were never going to pass and didn't.
Despite the united opposition of all the parties, the Tories had the numbers and the Bill passed third reading. This defeat is another tough reminder that without being in Government, we can’t protect millions of working people who need our support. We need to continue to build the campaign against the Bill. Please talk to your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and persuade them to join the campaign. We now need to focus on persuading as many members of the House of Lords as possible, that this is a bad Bill and should be stopped, or at least substantially amended.
The Bill will now go to the House of Lords to be debated. So if you have any Peers living in your constituency, or you know any in other parts of the country, I urge you to write, email or call them and ask them to stop this illegal, illiterate and illiberal Bill.
GMB has lots more information about the Trade Union Bill on the website, click here for more info.