The Trade Union Bill will have its second reading in Westminster on Monday 14 September.
The Tory plans include vindictive measures including, for the first time, employers will be able to break strikes by bringing in agency workers to cover for strikers; huge restrictions on peaceful picketing andprotests; striking workers will have to tell their employer all their plans – including what they will post on Facebook – two weeks before they strike. There are lots of other proposals in the bill too – including attacks on union reps in the public sector, restrictions on how unions collect and spend their money; restrictive ballot thresholds and lots more unnecessary red tape. All of it taken together fundamentally undermines the right to strike.
Responding to this fundamental attack on our right to organise workers, PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka at our all-Scotland reps forum on 26 August said we must fight like never before to defend the right to strike. Mark is adamant that there has never been a more important time to strike than now, and this is the core message he will put to the TUC when it meets in Brighton next week.
PCS is supporting the TUC protest at the Tory Party conference on 4 October. We hope that there will be a huge swell of trade unionists from all parts of the UK alongside campaigners and those who believe in human rights, gathering to demonstrate the strength of opposition in this country to this fundamental assault on right to organise workers
58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs oppose the Bill. This week, PCS NEC members met with Chris Stephens MP, SNP spokesperson on the Bill, and he confirmed that the 56 SNP MPs will oppose all parts of the Bill. That doesn’t mean that as constituents, Scots shouldn’t write to our MPs. The 56 SNP, 1 Labour, 1 Lib Dem and 1 Tory and need to know that their constituents feel strongly about this matter, and that the collective strength of our movement stretches to every part of the land. Please contact your MP now https://secure.goingtowork.org.uk/page/speakout/will-your-mp-protect-the-right-to-strike-
There are provisions in the Bill to remove the deduction of union dues from payroll (check off) across the public sector and attack trade union facility time, whereby elected workplace reps are given time off to carry out trade union duties and activities. The Tories seek to extend to the whole of the public sector what they have been testing out on PCS in UK civil service departments. Instead of crushing our union, we are emerging as a stronger, determined and angry collective body. PCS is a fighting union, and without check off will be independent of our employers. Members not yet signed over to direct debit should do so now http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/join-pcs/switch-to-direct-debit/switch-to-direct-debit.cfm
What about Scottish Ministers? Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister announcing the programme for government to the Scottish Parliament on 1 September said: “My government will vigorously oppose the UK government’s proposed trade union legislation, which seeks to undermine the rights of unions to fairly and reasonably represent their members. And we will do so for a simple reason – we see trade unions as partners, not as opponents.”
PCS however, along with other Scottish trade unions and the STUC are demanding the Scottish Government go further. Mark Serwotka have publicly called on Scottish Ministers not to comply with the provisions of the trade union bill in respect of Scottish public services, as has Grahame Smith, general secretary of the STUC. In response, John Swinney, deputy first minister wrote to me: “While employment law and industrial relations are reserved, we will continue to put forward our view that is should be the prerogative of Scottish Ministers to decide on check off (and the wider Trade Union Bill) and consider any implications in due course.” Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister has expressed opposition too, and the Northern Ireland where employment is devolved, the employment and learning Minister Stephen Farry has affirmed the Bill will not apply there. It is truly possible that, with sufficient pressure from our movement the devolved administrations can lead a non-compliance opposition that renders the Bill unworkable.
The UK already has the most restrictive anti-union laws in Europe. From next week, while the British trade union leadership gather is in Brighton, the Tories intend to ram through Stage 2 of the Trade Union Bill in Westminster. The campaign to co-ordinate Scottish opposition to the Bill must grow.