A letter to Craig Mackinlay: Trade Union Bill

Dear Craig.

We live in your constituency. We are deeply concerned about the Trade Union Bill currently going through Parliament and we would like to meet you to talk about it in Parliament on 2nd November and a larger group of us would also to like to meet you here in Thanet at your earliest convenience, as we are unable to travel to London on 2/11.

We are members of the GMB, NUS, Unite plus a host of other unions and we are all worried about the impact the Bill will have on industrial relations, and the ability for workers to be effectively & fairly represented in workplace.

Positive working relations between trade unions and employers are vital. Trade Unions are a force for good in the workplace, trained workplace representatives help to create harmony and iron out problems before they escalate. They help people have a voice at work and promote fairness. Learning representatives promote and assist learning & education in the workplace which raises skills & productivity levels. Vital to the success of the UKs economy.

The Trade Union Bill will undermine this best practice in several ways.

The Bill undermines the right to strike, a right which actually underpins good relationships between employers and employees. Going on strike is always the last option and is incredibly rare, but the possibility of a strike encourages employers to sit down and discuss problems in the workplace with their employees. Problems at work are not going to disappear, and without this incentive it is likely disputes will take longer to solve and that is not good for employers, employees or the general population dependant on the goods & services workers provide for us all.  At a time when public services are going through unprecedented changes staff morale is an issue that should be taken seriously.

This is a view shared by the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), a body set up by the Government to scrutinise new law who describe the proposals within the Trade Union Bill as “not fit for purpose”.

When union members protest during strikes they already comply with a detailed Code of Practice but this Bill undermines the right to peaceful protest on picket lines. For example, if the Bill becomes law employers will be able to apply for an injunction to stop people attending picket lines and those people could even be given ASBOs. Criminalising workers in the course of legitimate concerns over their employment cannot be right.  These laws do not promote a positive working relationship between workers and employers.

The RPC found that the government had not made the case for any changes in the law on trade union picketing and protest and said that ‘there is little evidence presented that there will be any significant benefits arising from this proposal.’

The Police Federation has also questioned these proposals, saying that to ‘more intrusively supervise strikes’ would add more pressure to the already overstretched police force.

The Bill also allows the Government to outlaw the use of payroll deduction systems for trade union subscriptions, which are currently in operation across much of the public sector. This will be a decision taken by the Government without reference to local circumstances or the views of public sector employers or employees.

Payroll deductions are easy, efficient, very cheap to administer, and create a transparent relationship between the employer and the union. They are used in a variety of ways by employers such as charitable giving, pension contributions and bike loans but at present the Government is proposing only to prevent union subscriptions being paid through the payroll. Their justification for this is the cost of administering it. Given that many other deductions from source are also being made for employees and that these pay-roll systems are already in place, it seems unlikely that any significant saving will be achieved through the removal of this option. It is also without precedence that the UK Government would seek to intervene in the internal running of payroll systems or seek to cut across locally negotiated agreements.

Employers in the public sector are worried about the impact of the Bill. Director of HR at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said “Many places in the public sector have taken a partnership approach to industrial relations, working with trade unions to make change in a reasoned, sensible way. This has paid dividends such as improved patient care, a better employee voice and staff engagement, as well as agreements on pay awards protecting lower paid employees.”

The cross party Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said “The UK Government, through this Bill, will force Councils into changing the arrangements for ‘check off’ and facility time which works well for both parties and the cost of these arrangements are already covered by direct contributions from the trade unions themselves.”

The Chief Executive of leading HR professional body CIPD said the reforms are an “outdated response to the challenges of the modern workplace.”

As our MP and as an employer yourself I hope you will listen to our concerns about this. Please could we meet in Parliament on 2 November from 2pm to discuss the Bill? Will you also agree to meet us locally in Thanet, as many of your constituents cannot travel to London as the cost is prohibitive.

Please do let me know what time suits you.

Karen Constantine
RCM Regional Head, GMB member & constituency Trade Union liasion Officer for the Labour Party.

Mark Nottingham GMB
Kaz Peet NUJ
Richard Symonds BMA
Susan Kenndy UCU
Lynne Marie Butterfeild UNITE & NUS
Jacqueline Walker NUS
James Terry UNITE
Jodie Scobie NUS
And many more of your constituents.

Questions for Craig,
Why we need trade unions

The younger worker who was sacked by the MD when he was ‘late’ for work after lunch. The clock in his office was fast! The worker wasn’t late at all according to the shop floor clock. He had no rights because he didn’t have a years service. ( since then the Tories have changed the law so you need to work for 2 years to qualify for rights. )

The industrial workers unhappy with health and safety and pay. I conducted s consultative ballots, a show of hands, there was a high % in favour of moving to the next step to ballot formally. The employer then talked with me about improving there offer & the matter was settled. Without the right to strike