From the TUC

Safety reps inconsistency shows up partisan motives of #TUbill

01 Mar 2016, By

As the Trade Union Bill continues its passage through the House of Lords it is worth reminding ourselves about the potential implications for health and safety. As Frances O’Grady said in Hazards Magazine, the Bill will allow the Government to restrict the time given to trade union health and safety representatives in the public sector, allow agency workers to be used during strikes, thereby creating potential risks, and restrict the ability of workers to strike over safety issues.

At committee stage the Lords were particularly critical over the attack on health and safety representatives, as the debate shows, and were concerned that the Government was now threatening to force unions to restrict the time taken by health and safety representatives by bundling all time off together and imposing a single cap.

However one further issue has struck me about the stupidity of the attack on union health and safety representatives. That is that it only applies to trade union representatives.

There are also a (very small) number of non-union workplace reps out there – staff appointed to do the job by the employer themselves (in both the public and private sectors), where that employer doesn’t recognise a trade union.

The Bill refers to restricting the right of relevant union officials by modifying regulations made under the Health and Safety at Work Act. However there are two sets of regulations covering workplace representatives. The 1977 regulations only apply to trade union representatives while we also have the 1996 regulations which apply to representatives of workplace safety in non-unionised workplaces.

Both union reps and non-union reps have the right to paid time off to perform their functions. If the Bill is passed, the Government will be able to restrict the time off given to trade union representatives in the public sector, but not to non-trade union ones.

Now of course in practice there are virtually no representatives of workplace safety (non-union representatives) because they are not independent and therefore not effective, but it shows how ridiculous and unfair the trade union bill is.

Ironically the 1996 regulations were forced on the Government by the European Commission who said that the UK Government was not complying with the European Framework Directive in respect of non-unionised workplaces (to make them match unionised ones). Now we have the Government restricting these very same regulations as they apply to unionised workplaces.

We must keep up the pressure to make sure that the House of Lords sees the Trade Union Bill for what it is. A partisan and cynical attack on the trade union movement it threatens to undermine the work done by the tens of thousands of trade union members who volunteer to be health and safety representatives, and, as a result, make their workplaces a much safer and healthier place.

2 Responses to Safety reps inconsistency shows up partisan motives of #TUbill

  1. Kenneth Toulson
    Mar 9th 2016, 7:56 pm

    The problems we are now facing is over the last 30 years the TUC and trade union movement has allowed working class gains to be gradually eroded.

    It’s now time to ditch the rhetoric and start a fightback. No one can be so misguided now as to believe that this vicious government will back down on this Trade Union Bill in the face of petitions, pathetic appealing, soliciting and kowtowing to self-interested politicians. After all the damage this government has done, and will continue to do, to the NHS, public services and welfare state when given full rein, the only thing that is going to stop them is a full-blown general strike, but there’s not even a whiff of this coming from the TUC or our trade union leaders.

    Only when the TUC and trade union leaders stop wringing their hands and start leading a serious fightback against this vicious Tory government will we have chance to defeat their barbaric policies.

    Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws were never repealed despite 13 years of a New Labour government’s opportunity to do so. The TUC and most of the trade unions’ leaders’ complacency and Labour’s neglect to repeal these laws when it had the chance clearly emboldened this vicious Tory government and laid the foundations for them to further build on and escalate the attacks.

    It need never have got to the stage of this vicious Tory government’s all-out attack on unions’ right to strike if the TUC and most trade union leaders had not squandered multiple opportunities to take them on.

    Organising hundreds of thousands protesters in rallies, protests and short-lived ineffective strikes is futile if the actions are not meaningfully followed up. Pleading for concessions serves only to betray its weakness.

    Millions marched and took strike action over March, June and November 2011 over the pensions dispute only to be betrayed by the climb down of the Unison and GMB unions signing the ‘heads of agreement’, and in doing so, isolated the PCS union, the only union willing to fight on. Encouraged by this, Danny Alexander, in Parliament at the end of December 2011 gloated that the ‘heads of agreement’ deliver the government’s key objectives in full, and do so with no new money since our November offer.”

    And then, among other failures to rise to the occasion, health unions suspended the further NHS strikes planned for the 29 January and 25 February 2015 leading to acceptance of an inadequate offer.

    Similarly with the local government workers in 2013.

    For the TUC and trade union leaders to keep leading people, who have over the years invested so much time and effort in strikes, rallies and protests, into action only to repeatedly retreat, not only betrays their trust but serves to sap any confidence in a fightback.

    So inevitably, after years of unfulfilled action, facing such little opposition and emboldened by their previous unchecked successive vicious attacks on working people’s lives it’s hardly surprising that these cold, hostile, callous, calculating Tory spivs have the confidence to mount, the biggest ever attack on trade unions rights in the Trade Union Reform Bill.

    The Jeremy Corbyn phenomenon now shows graphically that there is a massive appetite for sustained, purposeful, undiluted action and it is now time for the trade union movement to get behind this mounting rank and file pressure and show its mettle.

    However, only when the whole trade union leadership stands for election as a workers’ representative on a worker’s wage will they find the incentive to fight back meaningfully.

  2. #TUbill threat to union safety representatives is still there
    Mar 15th 2016, 12:32 pm

    […] Bill only applies to trade union representatives. There are also a small number of non-union safety reps in the public sector where that employer doesn’t recognise a trade union. The Bill refers to […]