10 March 2016
Amendments proposed by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Business, to the Trade Union Bill today offer minor concessions on the raft of legislation that is expected to have a devastating effect on both the labour movement and Labour party.
However, considering the wide opposition from all benches of the House of Lords throughout Committee Stage – including from several Conservative peers – the changes she has put forward are very weak.
Baroness Rolfe has offered that workers can be excluded from the new 40% support threshold for ballots held in the public sector if the union “reasonably believes” that they were not “normally engaged in the provision of important public services” at the time of the vote.
She has also agreed that trade unions only need provide a summary of the dispute on voting slips rather than a “reasonably detailed indication”. The Lords previously pointed out that the original wording of the Bill could lead unions to throw in the whole kitchen sink in order to avoid any possibility of litigation (and thus make it more difficult for workers to understand disputes).
Originally the government planned to double the notice period unions have to give employers before taking action from seven to 14 days, but on this issue the Tories have conceded that a week’s notice is sufficient so long as employers and unions agree this between themselves.
In addition, Baroness Rolfe proposed an amendment to Clause 8, which legislates to make invalid any ballot in support of industrial action after four months. The peer extended this to six months, or nine months with agreement of the employer.
Finally, the peer suggested that the means of identification of the proposed picket supervisor can be by any means rather than specifically a badge or armband; and inserted a statutory instrument allowing ministers to adjust the level of political expenditure unions must report to the Certification Officer with a floor of £2,000.
With the Bill due to enter Report Stage next Wednesday (06 March 2016), Lords will be hoping for more robust concessions from the government on issues that found almost no support in the House, including the prohibition of check-off arrangements and e-balloting, and restrictions on trade unions’ political funds.
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