UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

TU Bill attacks human rights. Manchester Rally.

UNISON's North West Region hosted an anti trade union bill rally at the Mechanics Institute Manchester tonight with Angela Raynor MP, Paula Barket, NW Convener, Kevan Nelson, UNISON North West Secretary, UNISON Policy Chair Jane Carolan and Carl Roper of the TUC, Here we cover Jane Carolan's speech in full.

"It was Catch 22 that immortalised the phrase just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not after you.

Even before the General Election last year we knew a Tory victory would put trade unionism at the forefront of an assault on working people

We didn’t have long before this abomination of a piece of legislation was published.

It attacks human rights, civil liberties, political freedom, the right to organise, the right to strike.

In short it is an attempt to kill resistance to the Tory project from the workplace or the electorate. We don’t fit into a Tory world view. In Thatcher’s famous phrase, we remain the enemy within.

Don’t forget that this is the Government that introduced the Lobbying Act, censoring electoral campaigning by those critical to its programme- everyone from the British Legion to Shelter and all points in between, including trade unions

Like that piece of legislation, the TU BILL was badly drafted in Tory Central Office, rushed through Parliament and subject to only very limited scrutiny. Any reasonable person has to ask, if they are prepared to misuse Parliamentary democracy, what have they got to hide?

Trade union activities are recognised as part of the UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 23.....

BUT The only voluntary group in civil society that is subject to unwarranted government interference, intrusion and sanction is the trade union movement Human rights are everyone’s rights unless you are a trade unionist. If this act was printed with the word “Christian” or “Women” replacing every reference to a trade unions or trade unionists, its utter repugnance would lead to widespread condemnation.

My union UNISON is a public sector union. We have fought for public services as the Tories have sought to place public assets in a Dutch auction willing to sell everything from our NHS to the fabric of our communities, allowing private companies like a grab a profit PLC’S to take over our schools, closing libraries and community facilities than spending for public investment, handing our hard earned taxes to shareholders as profit.

UNISON has a long and proud history of defending what we believe in, both nationally and locally through the use of our political funds. We are now effectively censored and the party political links that our members have voted for and continue to vote for are under threat

As a public sector union we are also targeted organisationally.

UNISON is based on strong lay organisation at a local level and local democracy,

Our ability to represent our members depends at that level on facility time.
We will be drastically curtailed in our ability to act on behalf of our members

The new Bill introduces regulation of facility time by requiring employers to report on the resources allocated for facility time. In addition, the government is also taking powers to impose a cap on the amount of facility time paid in each public and local authority, so that local arrangements will be under not only close scrutiny, but subject to outside control.

Such powers we are now told by Tory ministers will be used exceptionally. To which I would reply with the old adage - How do you know when a Tory is lying / His lips are moving.

Now even if the union has a written agreement with an employer that provides for an approved and established arrangement for local representation, the Bill gives the government the power to interfere in individual contracts of employment and collective agreements even though these are voluntarily agreed by public sector employers. Valuable local arrangements that work to the benefit of employees and employers will be under threat.

On top of that we have interference in the DOCAS arrangements whereby currently employers collect subscription income. Let’s be frank. DOCAS is a convenience all round.

It’s convenient for members, as there is no need to remember when subs are due or make arrangements for payment.

It is convenient for employers, in that the trade union is a known entity.

And it is convenient for the trade union, providing a reliable and a regular source of income to finance their activities, and have an organised membership.

And in the majority of cases it is a service for which we pay employers. The only people who believe otherwise inhabit a galaxy far far away called Tory Central Office who likes to pretend that this is a charge on the public purse. Wrong again chaps.

Now such arrangements are to be outlawed. This is the Tory government at its most vindictive and destructive.

What stands in their way must be bulldozed out of it. DOCAS stands for organised trade unionism. That is why it cannot be allowed to continue.

If this bill is passed in its current form unions like Unison faces the task of a lifetime. 800,000 members currently paying by Docas will need to be re-signed as direct debit payers, a major organisational challenge, Members will find themselves inadvertently losing access to vital union services.

Trade unionism in this country is the most heavily regulated voluntary activity probably in the Western World the current anti trade union laws in this country are out with international law as defined in the ILO conventions, and the changes make a bad situation worse. As Prof John Hendy never stops reminding us we have never had a right to strike in this country.

No industrial action in this country is political. Industrial action usually follows a breakdown in a negotiating situation

Union members are not Pavlov’s dogs awaiting the whistle of “All out” to take strike action. But the message of anti trade union legislation is clear. In the case of a breakdown in negotiation, one side is always right, and that side is the employers.

But this Government is determined to tie the hands of trade unionists by creating anti democratic measured that destroy the right to strike

Only in trade union ballots can the decision be declared invalid not because there is no majority of those voting, but because others chose not to participate in the ballot. This is a new test of democracy that our electoral system fails spectacularly, but is to be imposed on trade unions.

Yes I would like to see every strike ballot be based on greater participation, because it would mean more members understood the issue. But if I choose not to vote in a ballot and a strike ballot is successful, why should I have a veto in whether the action goes ahead? Welcome to the world of Tory logic.

And of course 40 per of the total workforce must vote in favour of action in important public services. So for a successful ballot, not fifty per cent of those voting must be in favour but 80 per cent. How many Tories were elected like that?

The right to withdraw labour is fundamental to the trade union relations and recognised internationally. But this Bill allows so called agency workers to undermine the strike action, placing more power yet again in the hands of the employers.

If we take strike action our picketing and our protests are subject to severe regulation undermining freedom of speech and threatening the civil liberties of working people to defend themselves. Even that most civil liberties minded organisation the Police Federation does not want to see its members getting involved.

And just to make sure we comply our old friend the Certification Officer is given new powers to investigate unions even where no one has complained. Our memberships records are no longer our own and we are under state control. And we will pay for the privilege to the tune of £11 million a year by the governments own estimate.

This legislation now winds its way through the legislative process. The trade union movement continues to negotiate, to agitate and lobby to achieve changes to this vile piece of legislation. We will continue to do so.

• Between the workplace restrictions,
• The industrial restrictions
• And the campaign restrictions this Bill is designed
• To allow the Government to push through drastic cuts to the public sector without organised opposition,
• Weakening the workers right to be supported at work
• This Government is gerrymandering political boundaries to destroy opposition to its programme
• A programme of destroying the welfare state in its widest meaning,
• To proliferate the low pay and zero hours economy,
• To perpetuate the inequality that undermines the society we live in.

As trade unions we must continue our resistance, not just this particular piece of legislation but the whole Tory project whatever it takes."