Standing up for hard-working people

One of the reforms currently going through Parliament is to reduce disruption for hard-working people by changing trade union strikes laws.

Industrial action in ‘essential’ services in border security, education, health, fire, transport, and nuclear decommissioning sectors will be subject to changes.

Following a public consultation, legislation will ensure that industrial action requires the support of at least 40 per cent of trade union members, and a turnout of at least 50 per cent.

The Trade Union Bill is raising the threshold of when strike action can take place. There has been a lot of hyperbole and dramatic rhetoric which strays from the issue at hand.

These reforms are to counter the militant leadership of unions – they are not designed to stop legitimate strikes.

Rob Williams, national chair of the National Shop Stewards Network, has been quoted as saying, “The message must be simple – Cameron, we are going to take you down… If this goes into law, we want mass co-ordinated strike action.”

It cannot be right for a trade union leader to seek to ‘take down’ a democratically elected government. Do we want to return to the 1970s?

An obvious comparison is the necessary mandate to take strike action, and the election of Members of Parliament themselves. It is worth bearing in mind that at a general election, it is a choice of more than two options, unlike a strike ballot.

Also, everyone affected by a general election gets a vote. The public who are inconvenienced by strikes do not have any input.

There needs to be a balance between legitimate strike action, and militant trade union leaders misusing this opportunity. It is worth remembering that if strike action is explicitly supported by members it will still take place.

The Government have undertaken three consultations in recent months; on ballot thresholds in important public services, hiring of agency staff during strike action, and putting a stop to the intimidation of workers who choose not to go on strike.

There have already been London Underground strikes, disrupting Crawley commuters, at the prospect of the Night Tube – a move which will give people greater flexibility over travel, including helping those travelling home from a late shift at work.

While the changes being put forward will alter mandates required for industrial action, they of course do not seek to outlaw strikes.

Where there is a genuine grievance, a trade union can play an important role in standing up for its members.

This cannot be misused by union bosses to pursue a political agenda at the expense of hard-working people.