Big Debate: Are the new strike laws asking too much of trade unions?

Signal lights all turned to red and lines standing empy as rail strike talks go ahead. Picture: PA W

Signal lights all turned to red and lines standing empy as rail strike talks go ahead. Picture: PA Wire/David Cheskin - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

This week we ask if the new strike laws are asking too much of trade unions?

Mick Cash, left, and Festus Akinbusoye

Mick Cash, left, and Festus Akinbusoye - Credit: Archant

When the Queen’s Speech was read last Wednesday, it included many new proposals to toughen up trade union strike laws. At present, strikes are valid if they are backed by a majority of those balloted and ballots do not require a specific level of participation. However new laws would require there to be a ballot turnout of 50 per cent and 40 per cent must then back strike action. This week we ask: “Are the new strike laws asking too much of trade unions?”

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Mick Cash, general secretary of RMT union

The Queen’s Speech has confirmed that the Tories are hell-bent on ratcheting up their anti-union laws.

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That is nothing new and these plans will continue to meet the fiercest possible resistance.

It is a fact of life that regimes around the world that look to keep down protests and opposition start off by trying to shackle the trade unions and Britain is no exception.

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Recent voting figures show that this is the clearest possible case of one law for the political class and another for the working class.

Only a tiny handful of the hypocrites advocating these ballot thresholds has ever been elected on the same kind of percentages they are demanding in a strike vote.

It is shameful that they are not prepared to subject themselves to the same artificial thresholds that they are now planning to slap on trade union members.

MPs who are up to their necks in the expenses scandal and lining their own pockets with money from their big business backers have got some serious brass neck trying to corrupt workplace democracy to suit their own purposes.

We never get a vote on the pay award of 10 per cent that’s being lined up for our political masters. Oh no, they decide on that themselves and that is simply outrageous.

The front line of defence against cuts and austerity is the organised working class and that is why the Tories and big business want to tighten the legal noose around our necks.

That’s the same as it ever was and they will have a fight on their hands.

Festus Akinbusoye, former Conservative candidate for West Ham

The Conservative Party won the recent general election on a platform of supporting those who want to work and get on in life while ensuring that aspiration is fully supported and everyone feels the benefit of economic growth.

I believe the plans to reform industrial action in Britain are long overdue, are a pro-workers proposal and are pro-economy too.

There’s a proposal to ensure at least 50 per cent of all those eligible to vote on a strike ballot actually vote, with a 40pc vote in support of industrial action being criteria for it to be legal.

Some commentators have said this will make industrial actions impossible. Very untrue.

Strikes are designed to cause as much disruption in order to achieve an end and given that these reforms will mainly affect those in the public sector, such as transport workers, teachers and healthcare workers, it is right the bar is raised. Many hardworking Newham residents know only too well what happens when teachers strike or the Tube is shut down.

Some of the recent strikes have been carried out with about 10pc support from those balloted. This means that the overwhelming majority of public sector workers did not vote for strike action but have to hang up their tools.

This needs to change.

We need to keep Britain moving forward. Industrial actions and trade unions play an important role in preserving workers’ rights but this proposed legislation will not eliminate these.

If anything, it is designed to give greater legitimacy to strike action when taken.

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