The independent watchdog given the job of monitoring government legislation by business secretary Sajid Javid has told him his own Trade Union Bill is “not fit for purpose”.
The watchdog gave the proposals a ‘red’ light – in effect ‘no, minister’ – and said key elements of the Bill are not backed by proper evidence.
The Regulatory Policy Committee – set up to help cut £10bn of ‘red tape’ – verifies the costs and savings of proposed changes to laws effecting businesses and civil society organisations.
The RPC found that the government had not made the case for any changes in the law on trade union picketing and protest. This includes proposals to make unions give 14 days’ advance notice of whether their members will use Twitter or Facebook during protests.
‘Must be substantiated’
In a blow to Mr Javid, the RPC said that ‘there is little evidence presented that there will be any significant benefits arising from this proposal’ and ‘the definition of the problem currently appears weak and must be substantiated’.
On agency workers being allowed to replace striking workers, the RPC found that the government’s impact assessment undermines its own central assumption.
The RPC points out that the government’s own assessment ‘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 RPC suggests the government had been too hasty in pushing through their proposals, and called on the government to consult further – including specifically with those unions and employers affected by the additional 40 per cent threshold requirement for industrial action.
It is the second blow to the Bill in a week. Global union IndustriALL, along with IndustriALL Europe said they were opposing the bill and would encourage European Union and other cross Europe employers and trade union bodies to formally oppose it.
Howard Beckett, Unite Director of Legal Services told UniteLive: “As the RPC has pointed out, there is no evidence that this legislation is needed. It is driven by ideology and elements of it by sheer spite.
“This government seems determined to treat workers as an industrial commodity, removed of the most basic of employment rights – the right to deny labour. This legislation isn’t a throwback to the Tory government of 1979 it is a throwback to Victorian times.
“We are pleased to see the response of our European colleagues. It is clearly left for the trade unions to remind this government that workers are not commodities to be used and discarded at will.
“We are confident UK workers will see this legislation for what it is, an attack on the most basic employment rights that a democratic country can expect to protect. This government is a government which backs the few to exploit the many and has nothing but disdain for workers rights.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “The government’s trade union bill threatens the basic right to strike – and it’s being rammed through with unseemly haste, without a proper case being made.
“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. 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.”
Key proposals in the Bill include allowing employers to
- Raise the temperature in disputes by bringing in agency workers to replace strikers. This could risk workplace safety, public safety and impact on the quality of services.
- Major new restrictions on pickets and protests will mean that striking workers will have to tell their employer all their plans – including what they will post on Facebook or Twitter or whether they will use a loudspeaker – two weeks before the strike.
- In ‘important public services’ (fire, health, education, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning), 50 per cent of members must turn out to vote and 40 per cent of the entire membership must vote in favour (that amounts to 80 per cent of those voting, on a 50 per cent turnout).
- The Bill also attacks the collection of trade union subs in public services by banning their deduction from pay packets – known as ‘check off’.
- It also aims to undermine the trade union and Labour party link in an attempt to undermine its chief political opponent.