22 August 2015
External scrutiny by the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) has found the government’s anti-strike laws to be unfit for purpose.
The RPC was appointed by the government in July, to monitor the cutting of £10bn of “red tape” this parliament.
The government’s plans to make it near impossible for workers to strike are laid out in the Trade Union Bill. The RPC looked at three proposals in the bill; forcing workers to tell employers their intention to strike two weeks in advance, allowing employers to break strikes by bringing in agency workers, and a strike threshold of 50% of members voting and 40% doing so in favour in public services.
The RPC classified these plans as “not fit for purpose”. The RPC consists of economists and business representatives, civil society, academia and the legal profession. It has a lone trade union representative, who was excluded from talks due to a supposed conflict of interest (yet business representatives were permitted to contribute). The government has been too hasty in pushing through the proposals, according to the RPC, and further consultations with trade unions and those affected by the changes are necessary.
It found that the government’s impact assessment undermines its own central assumption, as ‘it provides reasons why it might be more beneficial to the employer to take the short-term costs associated with a strike instead of seeking temporary workers’.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said again that the trade union bill is being “rammed through with unseemly haste, without a proper case being made”.
She continued; “We’re pleased that the regulatory policy committee has exposed the lack of consultation and the unfair imposition of excessive red tape on unions and employers,” she said. “This is an opportunity for the government to take a step back, recognise that they were wrong, and drop these proposals which threaten the democratic right to strike.”
Read more about the myth of red tape in the IER’s latest publication The Mythology of Business.