To the Secretary all Branches,
Council of Executive members,
Regional Councils and Regional Offices
Thursday 16th July 2015
Trade Union Bill
On 15th July the Government introduced the new Trade Union Bill to Parliament. The Bill is an unprecedented, draconian assault on democracy and trade union rights, and even more so for workers in listed sectors which include transport.
The Bill includes:
- a 50% voting threshold for union ballot turnouts, plus a requirement of 40% of those entitled to vote in favour of industrial action in certain “essential” public services (health, education, fire and transport)
- changing “unlawful” or “intimidatory” picketing from a civil offence to a criminal one
- an opt-in process for the political fund trade union subscriptions
- a limit on the proportion of working time a public sector worker can spend on trade union duties
- further proscriptive detail to be included on ballot papers and notice to employers. The current level of detail is often used by employers to challenge industrial action and this will further compound the situation.
- an increase in the notice period given to employers prior to industrial action
- time limits on a mandate (4 months) following a ballot for industrial action
- additional powers to the Certification Officer to fine trade unions.
The ballot threshold means that in a transport workplace of 100 union members, 50 members would have to participate in a ballot and a minimum 40 of that 50 would have to vote yes for industrial action to be legal. This means on a turnout of 50%, an 80% yes vote would be required.
Attacks on picketing not only include changing “unlawful” or “intimidatory” picketing from a civil offence to a criminal one but also involves the union appointing a “picket supervisor” for every picket and taking “reasonable steps” to tell the police the picket supervisor’s name, where the picketing will be taking place, and how to contact the picket supervisor.
The Union will also now have to itemize all industrial action undertaken, and all expenditure from the political fund in our Annual Return to the Certification Officer. Any errors or omissions will be penalised by the Certification Officer.
It is expected that the ban on employers using Agency Staff to replace striking workers will be lifted through secondary legislation.
RMT has a proud record of fighting the anti-unions laws and our struggle against them will now intensify. We will continue to work with other unions and the TUC, and through campaign groups such as the Institute of Employment Rights and the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom, to build the broadest possible alliance to fight these laws.
We have submitted a motion to the 2015 Trade Union Congress which reflects this position.