Anneliese Dodds MEP

The South East's Voice in Europe

One rule for the powerful, and another for all the rest of us

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You can't miss the posters on our high streets advertising Shane Meadows' TV show 'This is England '90'. 

Replete with floppy haircuts and flares, the actors' clothes certainly take you back to those heady days 25 years ago when Furbies were all the rage and no-one (perhaps thankfully) had heard of twitter.

But yesterday's debates on the Trade Union Bill in the House of Commons take us back twice as far, to the 1970s. From the way the Tories have been speaking about trade unions, anyone would think we're back in the times of the three day week and threats of the lights going out. This is an insult to the six million Brits who are members of trade unions today.

No less than one hundred times more days were lost to strike action in the 1970s compared to today. Strike action really is used today as a last resort by working people, when all other avenues to protect their terms and conditions have been exhausted. Trade unions already have to climb over many hurdles before a strike can be declared- more hurdles than in any other European country. Yet the Conservatives seem determined to take away even this very basic freedom from working people, in the process putting Britain in league with some very unsavoury bedfellows.

First, the Conservatives are threatening to effectively remove the right to strike from a huge proportion of the population. The proposed minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots, with extra requirements for health, transport, fire service and education workers, mean that any strike affecting them would need the backing of 40% of eligible trade union members.

That threshold would, in practical terms, end the right to strike in the public sector- and be the only restriction on industrial action of its kind outside of countries like Saudi Arabia and Liberia. The Tories are pushing this change at the same time as they oppose secure and secret online balloting, which has been proven to increase turnout in ballots.

The Conservatives should, however, be wary of throwing rocks in glass houses. Only 15 Conservative MPs in the UK parliament secured the support of 40% of those entitled to vote in their constituency in 2010. And only 12% of eligible voters voted for Police and Crime Commissioners, but the Commissioners were deemed duly elected.

To impose these stringent requirements on trade unions is a direct attempt to curtail the democratic rights of working people and a blatant application of double standards. In Cameron's Britain, there really does seem to be one rule for the powerful, and another rule for all the rest of us.

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