With the second reading of the government’s damaging and divisive Trade Union Bill due on Monday, Unite Legal Services warns of the unrest the Bill could cause.
The Trade Union Bill is a clear, ideological attack on workers and those who represent them in modern Britain. The Conservatives have attempted to paint themselves as a workers’ party in recent months but attempts to demonise workers and undermine their rights to strike shows this to be a complete fabrication.
Alongside the Trade Union Bill, the government is putting forward an Agency Bill that would allow companies to employ temporary agency staff while permanent workers are on strike. This proposal will cause rifts in communities, as agency workers live among those they are being used to undermine. It could also cause the type of unrest and resentment in communities that has been unseen since the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
Howard Beckett, director of Unite Legal Services, said: “If this Bill passes, it could cause untold industrial and civil upheaval as many agency workers will be migrant workers, which will breed resentment and add to divisions within society. The government’s own assessment of the Bill concludes that many agency workers are from minority groups. As they are living among the permanent workers they are undercutting, this could be a recipe for disaster.
“It is the responsibility of the employer to find a reasonable solution to industrial disputes. This responsibility will be completely undermined if employers are granted the ability to hire agency workers during strikes. The outcome will be damaging to workers and businesses, as replacing experienced, skilled workers with temporary, untested workers is detrimental to industrial relations and the growth of companies.”
The proposal to replace striking workers with temporary staff is in breach of international law and fundamentally undermines the right to strike in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Bill also impinges on international law in its proposals for a ballot threshold of all workers when calling strike action. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) declared this ‘excessive’ and noted that it could ‘hinder possibility of declaring a strike’.
It is clear that this Bill is intended to undermine the role of trade unions and as a result, take power away from workers in this country. It will not only undermine workers’ rights but will exacerbate tensions in communities across the country, leading to potential widespread social unrest.