From the TUC

5 surprising things about the Trade Union Bill debate…and 3 unsurprising things

10 Nov 2015, By

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

Jeremy Lefroy MP

Jeremy Lefroy MP

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.

Some of the people who came to Parliament to lobby their MP on the bill

Some of the people who came to Parliament to lobby their MP on the bill

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:

Civil liberties groups like Liberty, Amnesty, and the British Institute for Human Rights:

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.

32 Responses to 5 surprising things about the Trade Union Bill debate…and 3 unsurprising things

  1. Mrs Terry Short
    Nov 10th 2015, 8:14 pm

    I want to make a stand against this bill. They are trying to destroy our democratic rights.

  2. Philip leatherland
    Nov 10th 2015, 8:27 pm

    I just hope that the House of Lords kick this one out .
    It’s workers rights being taken away by this government I can’t
    Understand why every member of all trade unions don’t call for a general strike . It’s our right to fight this as we fought for trade unions years ago .

  3. Carole martin
    Nov 10th 2015, 8:34 pm

    I am retired but I have a daughter who belongs to the teachers union
    They have so many people who are leaving teaching because they are being used as political pawns.I hope that the unions will get support for all because they are the only force that supports the working class

  4. Michaelrands
    Nov 10th 2015, 8:57 pm

    I am retired but am still a union member ,,it’s the union members who should decide rules with unions not TORIE goverments

  5. Peter Tennant
    Nov 10th 2015, 9:08 pm

    I object profusely to this attempted theft of democratic rights.
    My wife has recently resigned as a sister Midwife in the NHS after 25 years service. The main reason for this being the pressure of non-investment by the government. This has brought Overwhelming pressure to the service via Short staffing, red tape and anti-social [On call] hours of work. The Union has been powerless to fight this and the introduction of this Bill will see even more staff leaving. I would suggest to the Lords that it should be rejected, as failure to do so will ultimately put lives in danger.

  6. Allie
    Nov 10th 2015, 10:45 pm

    As a former union rep, I have seen first hand how management ignore employment law and trade union agreements to exploit their workers at every turn.
    Trade Unions, in my opinion, need more recognition for the valuable work that they do in supporting business. Union reps save employers money, and fines, by ensuring Health&Safety checks are carried out, they are engaged in conflict resolution, acting as go-between, ensuring fair play and supporting colleagues.
    They are very undervalued and misunderstood, and quite frankly the Conservative government don’t really know what they are about, having never worked ‘in the real world’ themselves.
    Every worker in this country ought to belong to a Union, for the protection of themselves and their families.

  7. Rob Doughty
    Nov 11th 2015, 12:07 am

    I have never belonged to a Union. As an apprentice electrician, I was officially “staff” rather than “shop floor” and so could not be a member of the Unions recognised on site. Later employers would not allow any Union activity on site – on pain of dismissal!

    When my apprenticeship was a few months short of completion (early 1981) all the apprentices were told that we were being made redundant – with more or less immediate effect. This would have meant that none of the 25-30 lads who had worked and trained hard would receive their “papers” and would be unable to utilise their skills in a professional capacity to earn a living. Despite the fact that we were not members, the Union negotiated on our behalf and got us a “stay of execution” until the anniversary of our apprenticeships, meaning that those of us in our final year got our papers & those in their third year gained a college qualification. They even managed to persuade the company to retain some of the younger lads on their existing apprenticeships.

    Many people seem to be very opposed to Trades Unions and the more high profile disputes, but I have yet to see or hear of an instance where a non-Union member will refuse to accept any improvements in pay or conditions which have been gained by Union representatives and/or action. To me, these people are hypocrites. They are reluctant to take any kind of stance on their own behalf, but are more than willing to profit from someone else’s endeavours.

  8. peter jack
    Nov 11th 2015, 3:12 am

    Can we expect anything else from this Extreme Right Wing Government, just look at what they have and propose to destroy. They are not only the Nasty Party but also the Demolition Party. One rule for the rich and one for the ordinary people. Unions are a very important part of our society otherwise people would not join. Remember it was the Unions which were the downfall of the Country, then people on benefits, then the immigrants and now we are around to the Unions again what about the Bankers?

  9. Ian
    Nov 11th 2015, 7:23 am

    Employees have little EFFECTIVE protection as it is. If these anti union measures are brought in the situation will only be worse. We must keep fighting the good fight!

  10. Trade union bill – What happened in the Commons? | Going To Work
    Nov 11th 2015, 5:56 pm

    […] Further reading: 5 surprising things about the Trade Union Bill debate…and 3 unsurprising things […]

  11. Ian Sait
    Nov 11th 2015, 6:29 pm

    If this gets passes by the House of Lords then this proposed Law/ Bill should be challenged in the Law Courts and the European Courts as the Bill restricts human rights and civil liberties .

  12. Anthony
    Nov 11th 2015, 6:54 pm

    We MUST continue the struggle. This is only one part of the Tories’ plan for universal privatising…everything from the NHS, education and yes, even the security services viz the police & army are up for grabs.

  13. roger bennett
    Nov 11th 2015, 6:58 pm

    this is a typical tory bill to stop working class people having a say on how they are treated at work. they want us to go back to the days of going cap in hand, the rich then did more for working people then they do now but not by much. If they didn’t have the money and house handed down to them and pinched common land and the likes and had to do manual work like the most of use I bet they would want a body to fight for there right’s against scrupulous employers they all said what they were going to do with there £7000 pay rises but did they ? not many did ,would you get an average person working in many of the jobs in travel, factories ,nursing, school, councils I could go on even get £1000 per annum rise I don’t think so this bill needs over turning let’s hope it happens in the lord?

  14. Michael hopper
    Nov 11th 2015, 7:44 pm

    Surely this government have more serious things to discuss why not sit down with the unions and discuss rather than imposing a draconian bill

  15. Alan Monks
    Nov 11th 2015, 7:52 pm

    This is obviously another weapon this government will use to bring the workers to heal. This government is bringing out legislation by the bucketful, knowing the the working people are not getting the chance to digest it all. We must rely on the union movement to keep us informed and to bring antics of the tories to our notice otherwise we will lose our rights on everthing. It frightens me.

  16. SteveHG
    Nov 11th 2015, 8:05 pm

    I thought we were supposed to live in a mature representative democracy where the ruling party governed on behalf of all the people and not just their supporters.

    Instead the Tories appear to be following the example of fledgling ‘democracies’ in the Middle East which have by and large failed because the winners took it into their heads ride roughshod over everyone else in favour of their own supporters (currently even that is doubtful in the UK) and their own self interest.

  17. David
    Nov 11th 2015, 8:16 pm

    Hi, since the Labour party has decided to side with the Conservatives in order to get this insidius anti-union law through Parliament, I would suggest that that is the signal to stop funding the labour party, If you continue to do so then you have no argument since you would be funding the very party that is trying to cripple you . I am somewhat surprised to see that you say UKIP also backed the Conservatives. As a UKIP supporter I will be getting onto them to see what they are playing at. D

  18. Gill Butterworth
    Nov 11th 2015, 8:22 pm

    If they pass this, The Unions, along with their members will effectively be castrated ! How sad these so called ‘Caring MPs’ have forgotten very quickly that people died for these rights. This government just finishing what Thatcher started !!

  19. Chris Bartter
    Nov 11th 2015, 8:34 pm

    Sad to see that David hasn’t read the original article which pointed out that all opposition parties in the HoC opposed the bill.(x UKIP). That includes Labour, David. Indeed Labour under Corbyn has taken a lead (at last) on this bill. David’s support for UKIP is a classic case of working people being fooled by the right wing.

  20. Bree Tait
    Nov 11th 2015, 8:43 pm

    The Right to Strike is paramount to a freely democratic Society.
    Conservatives are un democratic that is why they are trying to get rid of the right to strike.
    Get a truly Democratic Government striking would be fine but probably shouldn’t be necessary because you will be able to discuss problems with your equal and come to a amicable conclusion.
    Not feel it’s them and us! That’s why our country is becoming more and more fragmented

  21. robert jones
    Nov 11th 2015, 8:44 pm

    This is only the beginning of the fight against the trade Union Bill. Its only purpose is to strengthen the establishments grip over ordinary working people. The establishnent want to wipe out any opposition to their rule. We rely on the Trade Unions to protect our rights, our wages, our health and safety and working conditions. The establishment know the weaker rights and protection we have the stronger they think they are. The stronger they think they are the more they will cut jobs and services, cut wages and conditions. EVERY WORKING CLASS PERSON SHOULD UNITE AGAINST THIS BILL, EVERY TRADE UNIONIST SHOULD STAND UP AND BE COUNTED. FIGHT THE BILL AND HAVE A GOOD CONSCIENCE .

  22. mike htonk
    Nov 11th 2015, 10:14 pm


  23. Patrick Hughes West Midlands TUC REO Rtd
    Nov 11th 2015, 10:26 pm

    Thank you for sending me this information. A great result with hope to come.

    Pat. Hughes

  24. Pete Brown
    Nov 11th 2015, 10:45 pm

    Let me state quite categorically that there is no way the Labour party would support this bill. Only a deranged Ukipper could suggest such a thing.

  25. John Morrison
    Nov 12th 2015, 6:18 am

    How many Labour MPs voted in favour of this bill ?
    Those that did, should be hung drawn and quartered and even worse, expelled from the party.

  26. Gill Ursell
    Nov 12th 2015, 11:42 am

    I grew up in a post-war Britain which was rebuilt by ordinary people pulling together to make a better society, one informed by and organised to achieve humanitarian and democratic values. I’ve watched in horror as these achievements have been eroded by politicians chasing profitability and power above all else. I view with dismay the destruction of education, health, employment opportunities and standards for my grand children and their generation. The politicians have delivered a society which is mean, nasty, vicious. We need the unions more than ever, if we are to rectify this degradation.

  27. Jim Hendrie
    Nov 12th 2015, 1:20 pm

    Never in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that when becoming an OAP, and now well into my eighties, that I would see our British democracy and civil rights being destroyed and taken away by a bunch of “Sybarite and Public School Educated Parvenus”. If it had not been for Trade Unionism and other similar groups, those that now want to destroy this organisation, would not “Now” be sitting within the Palace of Westminster, living the life of luxury, at the expense of those who are the back bone of this once great nation, The British Working Class.

  28. Jane Clare
    Nov 12th 2015, 1:47 pm

    When the Lords voted against the withdrawal of working tax credits, they were described as ‘disgraceful’ by some Tory MPs. That shows the level of smug, empathy-lacking, sadistic government we are suffering. It must be all hands to the pump to continue fighting this vile bill. The Lords must come up with a common-sense resolution to this bill if they can’t kick it out all together. How dare this bunch of Tory hypocrites, for whom electronic voting is fine for themselves, drag this country back to the time of the Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists and beyond.The public have been brainwashed by Murdoch and his gutter press into believing that union = strike and are quite ignorant of the good and necessary work unions do. Tories capitalise on this. We must stop them at all costs.

  29. John
    Nov 12th 2015, 9:50 pm

    Let’s not rely on the Tories better natures, They don’t have one, any of them. The apparent concessions are only part of the strategy. Obviously some parts of this bill are completely unworkable. We should demand that the TUC calls a general strike.

  30. Roger
    Nov 13th 2015, 9:03 am

    John (Nov 12, 9.50 pm) is quite right about the Tories ‘better natures’. In May two thirds of those who voted were against the Tories, yet the Tories still talk about having a ‘mandate’. This brazen lie must be nailed every time it appears, till the message gets through to everyone.

  31. Martin Brown
    Nov 16th 2015, 11:52 am

    just so angry at all the wretched Tories are trying to do, attacking the poor, the unions, while protecting the bankers and all the other parasites…

  32. Poppy
    Dec 4th 2015, 11:55 am

    I am due to meet our local MP and discuss the 3 parts of the TU Bill that concern us the most;
    Stopping Union subs being paid directly from salaries; changes to the strike action ballet and lifting the ban on agency staff covering permenanet staff on strike.

    I have read with great interest these comments, but would urge you to arrange a meeting with your local MP and put your views forward and ask they use thier democratic vote to oppose the TU Bill. Many of you have been around, like me, in a time where there were little or no human rights or strong Unions to help us and were working in appauling conditions. By meeting your local MP we are working together to put pressure on this Government to listen to us – we are the majority.