Thousands of trade unionists head to Westminster to lobby MPs
The TUC says the Bill, which is also opposed by Amnesty International, Liberty and the British Institute of Human Rights, is an attack on unions ability to organise in the workplace and a threat to UK workers’ right to strike.
If passed, it will allow employers to bus in agency workers to break strikes, force councils, health trusts and other public bodies to break agreements with unions over the collection of union subscriptions, create a powerful Certification Officer with legal powers to raid union offices even when there has been no complaint, restrict the way some unions collect money for the Labour Party, introduce new restrictions on picketing and protests during a strike, including forcing strike leaders to wear armbands to identify themselves and making unions having to tell police and employers what they might post on social media two weeks in advance.
Trade unionists will gather at Central Hall, Westminster for a rally at 1pm before meeting their MPs at 2.30pm. Speakers at the rally include workers who have taken strike action, trade union general secretaries, comedian Andy Parsons, Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti and TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
Frances O’Grady will call on MPs to vote against the Trade Union Bill, saying: “Today working people from across the UK – midwives, steel-workers, dinner ladies – are travelling to London to show their opposition to the Trade Union Bill.
“I urge all MPs to listen their concerns. The Trade Union Bill is an affront to all fair-minded democrats and a fundamental attack on the right to strike. In a year when we celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the government is looking to take uncivil liberties with our basic freedoms.
“Make no mistake. This Bill is both undemocratic and a threat to public safety. Because how can it be fair to fine unions up to £20,000 if they don’t give two weeks’ notice about what they are going to put on Twitter and Facebook during a strike?
“And how can it be safe to allow untrained agency workers to be used to break strikes? This ill-thought through legislation is, in the words of the government’s own watchdog, “not fit for purpose”.
“Good employers agree that instead of picking a fight with six million workers ministers should be focused on building a stronger economy that delivers better jobs and wages for all. It speaks volumes for this government’s priorities that it is putting more energy into steamrollering this Bill through Parliament than helping our vital steel industry.
“Today at train stations across the UK, on motorway billboards and at Tube stops are the stories of workers who have taken strike action.
“Women like Natalie Linder – a midwife who took strike action last year, for the first time in her working life and the first time in the history of her union, after the government refused to give her and colleagues a modest one per cent pay rise.
“And women like Lucy Masoud, a fire-fighter here in London. Lucy puts her life on the line everyday to keep the public safe. But the government is insisting that she and others continue to enter burning buildings well into their sixties.
“Strike action is always a last resort, but the right to strike is essential for protecting workers and the services we all rely upon.
“My message to the government is simple – it is not too late to step back. Forcing this bill through will do lasting damage.
“If ministers’ priority really is to boost participation in ballots, then allow unions to have secure workplace balloting and electronic balloting. If it’s good enough for the Conservatives to select their candidate for London Mayor, then it is good enough for nurses, fire-fighters and car assembly workers.
“The Trade Union Bill has no place in a modern democracy. It must be voted down.”