House of Lords cautioned over government’s ‘empty’ Trade Union Bill concessions

Britain’s largest union, Unite, has cautioned members of the House of Lords against falling for empty promises, appealing for them to press government ministers to introduce secure workplace balloting, rather than reviews with unknown dates and unknown outcomes.

According to a leaked letter, a ‘mooted’ review into industrial action e-ballots is one of a number of concessions that government ministers are exploring to stave off defeat in the House of Lords on key parts of the controversial Trade Union Bill.

Other concessions include:

  • Introducing a legal duty to consult the Scottish and Welsh governments on key aspects of the bill. In addition, the letter suggests the government may have to make further changes to the bill in Scotland and Wales, including thresholds and facility time.
  • Allowing public sector check-off arrangements to remain in place in Scotland and Wales, but not in England.

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “We would caution members of the House of Lords against falling for the government’s empty promises and accepting what is still an undemocratic and ideologically driven bill.

“The only way to increase participation in industrial action ballots is by using secure workplace balloting. It’s a method used frequently over the last decade by the government’s own Central Arbitration Committee in workplaces where trade unions are seeking recognition. During that period there has not been one case of irregularity.

“A review with unknown dates and unknown outcomes, which doesn’t include secure workplace balloting, will not address the issue of increasing participation.

“Members of the House of the Lords also need to be alert to government ministers leaving English workers with fewer rights than Scottish and Welsh workers through the imposition of undemocratic thresholds and removal of check-off.  

“It would lead to the ludicrous situation of a refuse collector in Carlisle having fewer protections than their colleague working for the same company in Stranraer and give firms the headache of needless red tape to implement.

“While the concessions in the leaked letter point to a realisation among ministers to growing opposition to the bill, they don’t address the fundamental thrust of this ideological and hated bill.”