Update on the Trade Union Bill - are you holding a workplace meeting on Tuesday?
Please see below message received from Frances O’Grady and please try to hold your own workplace meeting next Tuesday, watch the video from Frances at 12.45 and encourage your members to sign the petition.
Do send any photos of your meetings to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post on the AEP website as well as sharing with the TUC!
Message from Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary;
I thought that you might appreciate a further update on where we are with the trade union bill, and our ongoing campaign both in the Lords and across the country.
We now know that the Lords Committee Stages will be starting next Monday 8 Feb, with further sessions to be held on Wednesday 10Feb and then concluding after parliamentary recess on 23 and 25 February. It is likely that the Lords report stage and third reading will follow a couple of weeks after the Committee stages end. The report stage is the one most likely for amendments to be voted on.
On the proposed 40 per cent voting threshold, the government has now published their consultation response and accompanying skeleton regulations. These provide more detail on the threshold’s scope.
While we remain strongly opposed to both thresholds, the government’s proposals are narrower than initially anticipated: it no longer plans to extend the 40 per threshold to those employed in ancillary activities which support important public services. The government is also continuing to review whether and how the 40 per threshold should apply to the nuclear commissioning industry and has invited comments on the published skeleton regulations (which set out their current proposals for which areas of public service work would be covered). The TUC will be working with unions to submit views on the regulations to BIS and sponsoring Departments across Whitehall.
A further development has been the government’s publication of its Impact Assessment (IA) of the Bill. The IA outlines the huge (even by the government’s significant under estimates) expected transition costs to unions (£11.4m), as well as the regular costs that will be incurred thereafter (in total an estimated £26.3m over five years). As you know the Bill proposes that unions pay an annual levy to cover the costs of the Certification Officer (CO). This currently costs the government £850k annually. However, at a time when the rest of the public sector is experiencing significant spending cuts, it’s remarkable to learn that under the government’s plans the CO’s office is to see a 135 per cent budget rise to £2m a year.
A number of amendments have been tabled in the Lords, and in particular there have been helpful amendments proposed around the key campaign issues of opposing restrictions on check-off and union facilities; making the case for secure electronic and workplace voting; and limiting proposed new powers for the Certification Officer (CO) (although of course our opposition to the entire bill continues). There have also been growing debates on implications that the Bill will have for human rights. In addition, you will have seen that the House of Lords has had considerable success in securing a vote in favour of the establishment of a new Trade Union Political Funds and Political Funding Committee, which will be reporting to the same timetable as the Bill. The committee is inviting written evidence by 12th February and is also holding oral evidence sessions at which the TUC will be represented.
As ever, please do keep us posted of your lobbying efforts and any key contacts you are pursuing. As we move towards the Committee stages, the pace of political developments will no doubt further increase and, as you know, we will be most effective as a movement if we remain committed to collectively sharing any progress we make.
On wider campaigning activities, plans are coming on at speed for our week of action - heartunions - starting on Monday 8 February and continuing on to Valentine’s day on Sunday 14 February. This week will give us the opportunity to show the great work unions do every day, and demonstrate why the government should abandon the trade union bill. We are delighted that it coincides with the Committee Stages of the Bill.
Activities across the week will include the ‘Big Workplace Meeting’ on Tuesday 9 February where we will asking workplace branches to come together and hear a briefing over YouTube from myself about the Bill and our campaign against it. At the time of writing, more than 75 workplace branches have notified us that they intend to join the event, but it would be fantastic if you could notify us of even more ASAP.
We have also designated Thursday 11 February as the high visibility day of action - and we expect that unions take part in a huge range of varied forms of protest and campaigning in the community Regional TUC offices are to date coordinating a programme of more than 100 public facing activities around the country – including distributing 12,000 fliers at railway stations and ‘Love Football Love Union’ fliers at matches. We have produced non-union specific leaflets encouraging joining a union to help affiliates campaigning with the public.
Our TUC regional and Welsh secretaries are working hard to coordinate activities and I would ask you to keep in close touch with them as the activities your union is planning are confirmed. Thanks to all those unions who have helped us identify workplace rep stories to film. We will also hand in a petition of more than 200,000 to Number 10, accompanied by frontline workers from a range of affiliated unions. Please encourage more of your members to sign http://bit.ly/tubillpetition
We have produced significant resources to support unions to take part in the week – there is an activist pack, downloadable logos and materials available at http://heartunions.org/resources – and please get in touch with me if there is anything else we can do to help you – or you can do to contribute – to make the heartunions week of action and the wider campaign a success.
With many thanks once again for all the hard work and commitment that you continue to put into this campaign.