Tomorrow’s Big Workplace Meeting marks the central point of Heart Unions week. It is an opportunity for workers all around the UK to organise their branch meetings in a show of defiance to the Tory Government's Trade Union Bill. It is more important than ever for workers to back their union reps in the workplace and put pressure on the government to back down in their assault on the right to organise.
The Trade Union Bill is aiming to rip the heart out of the basic right to strike by allowing agency workers to replace striking workers. This is a practice that has been banned for 43 years in the UK and will be made worse by the bill doubling the amount of notice workers have to give before striking. This will allow employers more time to plan and bring in agency workers to disrupt the effectiveness of a strike. No-one wants a return to the kind of extensive industrial action the UK saw in the 1970s, but the fact is those days are long gone. Modern trade unions only use strikes as a very last option, and extremely sparingly. The Government's proposals would make the UK an outlier by preventing what is a basic requirement in the modern workplace- the right to strike.
The bill would have its most significant impact in education, health, firefighting and transport by raising the thresholds required to take action to ridiculous levels. The new proposals demand that 50% of members turn out to vote and that 40% of the entire membership votes in favour. That translates to securing 80% of the vote on a 50% turnout. Were we to apply these rules Westminster, the Tories would have had no chance of forming a government!
This assault on the basic rights of workers in the UK also serve as a dangerous warning to what the government may do if we leave the EU. As it stands, the government is still obliged to follow the basic workers’ rights set out in EU treaties. Leaving the EU would also endanger those critical rights contained with the Working Time Directive, rights to parental leave and protections to stop part-time workers being treated like second-class workers compared with full-time workers.
This isn’t just important for workers in the UK because these are standards that must be adhered to all around Europe. It means that no matter where you choose to live and work, you are guaranteed minimum standards and protections in the workplace. If we allow the Tories to force this bill through without effective opposition, we are allowing them to begin trickling down a slippery slope of eroding UK worker’s rights.
At 12:45pm on Tuesday you will have the change to organise a workplace meeting with your Union and share information, ask questions and organise against this Trade Union Bill. It’s also a chance to think again about the protections that are guaranteed under EU law and what else could be taken away from your rights if we cancel our EU membership in the referendum.
This week, show that you Heart Unions.