5 surprising things about the Trade Union Bill debate…and 3 unsurprising things
The government’s controversial Trade Union Bill was just debated in the House of Commons, before making its merry way on to the House of Lords.
The Surprising Bits:
1. Some Conservative MPs opposed (bits of) the bill
This is an important bill for the government, who want to bash unions. But this Bill goes too far for some of their own MPs. Speaking against government proposals to change union funding rules, Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy said:
“As a Conservative I am not in favour of prohibition of many things and certainly not of this.”
2. Some Conservative MPs even tried to amend their own government’s bill
They didn’t just speak against the bill, some of them tried to change it too. Jeremy Lefroy (above) put forward an amendment on union funding. David Davis MP and others tabled amendments to protect union members’ civil liberties. This shows how deep the unease at this bill runs in all parties.
It’s not easy to go against your party, but they stood up for what they think is right.
3. The Conservatives and UKIP are the only parties supporting the bill
Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid, the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP, and the Greens have all spoken out against the bill. And even then, some Conservative MPs didn’t vote for it.
4. The government still hasn’t explained its problem with electronic balloting
The government keeps saying that it wants to see higher turnout in votes for strikes. Unions agree, and have asked for legal permission to run votes online. The government’s response is always the same:
“Online voting is not secure.”
Yet every time they say that, someone points out that the Conservative Party uses online voting themselves to choose candidates. To this, the government replies:
They haven’t come up with a credible response, because there simply is no response. If online voting is good enough for them, it should be good enough for the trade unions too.
5. The great government back track continues
The government is trying to make the bill a little more palatable. They have announced that one of the provisions – a change in how union members pay their membership fees – will only be introduced in a year. It’s a welcome shift, but a bad policy today is still going to be a bad policy in a year’s time.
The Unsurprising Bits:
1. The government still isn’t listening
The TUC and the unions recently brought hundreds of ordinary people to Parliament to discuss their concerns with the Trade Union Bill. MPs listened, discussed, and took note. The government, however, hasn’t listened.
Even when the government had to u-turn on their barmy idea that people on strike would have to tell police what they were writing on Facebook weeks in advance, they never admitted they got it wrong.
2. Unions aren’t the only ones against the bill
The government’s bill is opposed by Every. Single. Union. But that’s not all. Other groups have come out too.
Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth:
— Friends of the Earth (@wwwfoecouk) November 10, 2015
Civil liberties groups like Liberty, Amnesty, and the British Institute for Human Rights:
— Liberty (@libertyhq) November 9, 2015
And even the professional body for human resources, the CIPD, has come out against. Even the Institute of Directors have said they support electronic voting.
3. “Unions play a valuable and important role in our society”
At some point in the debate, practically every Conservative MP mentioned how “valuable” and “important” unions are in Britain. We agree. But if the MPs are such fans of trade unions, why are they voting to restrict them?
What does all this tell us?
The government won a vote tonight, but lost the argument. Clear points against the bill were made by MPs of all parties – and we fully expect more chunks of the bill to be knocked off in the House of Lords, which is where the bill is headed next. The pressure’s building.
If you want to take a stand against the Trade Union Bill, you can sign up here.