British Government Targets Trade Unions
Since 1985, Britain has not had another major crackdown on trade unions as the one they began experiencing this summer. The unveiling of this new crackdown on trade unions, back in July of 2015, includes plans that criminalize picketing and permit employers to hire new working staff to break the strike.
This moves comes from the Conservative party and many see it as a way for the Tories to effectively bankrupt the Labour party, which receives much of its funding from affiliated trade unions. While prior to these new reforms union members would pay the political levy just for being part of the union, the reforms will require the unions to ask each member whether they wish to pay or not. That effectively cuts into the funding for the Labour Party, the intended voice of union workers in the political sphere.
Striking and picketing is another major point of contention following these reforms. While many in the Conservative party see striking and picketing among rail workers, educators, and nurses as disruptive to everyday family life, the new reforms give employers an unfair advantage to not heed the demands of their workers. What will be changing when it comes to striking and picketing is as follows:
- Proposals for making certain types of picketing a criminal act as opposed to a civil offence. An official will also be on hand to oversee the numbers on the picket line as well as ensure the following of a code of conduct.
- Require workers to give an employer two weeks notice of intended strike action which will give employers enough time to hire more workers and therefore break the strike.
- Unions will be compelled to allow members to vote on action that will be taken, such as striking, and will only be considered lawful when 50% the people who are asked to strike vote and 40% of those who voted support the action.
- A government certification officer will have the power to audit a union’s protests and pickets and impose fines (up to £20,000).
The general secretary for GMB, a large trade union in the United Kingdom with members working across several sectors, Paul Kenny, explained why this is all a large problem for trade unions rather well:
“When workers jump through draconian hurdles for their vote for strike action to be lawful, the employers can then ignore the will of their own workers.”