The government’s controversial trade union bill, which will seriously curtail unions’ ability to take industrial action, recently passed its second reading in the House of Commons despite strong criticism from Jeremy Corbyn’s new shadow cabinet, as well as Scots Nats and some Tory MPs. Stepping up the fight against this attack on workers rights to organise, Sedgemoor Labour Group submitted a motion calling on their local district council to reject the Bill.
Labour Group Leader Cllr Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) proposing the motion said “ The bill proposes huge restrictions on peaceful picketing and protests. Striking workers will have to tell their employers of all their plans two weeks before they strike. For the first time, employers will be able to break strikes by bringing in agency workers to cover for strikers – a move that could have serious safety implications, lead to worse public services, and undermine the right to strike. Other proposals include attacks on union reps in the public sector, restrictions on how unions collect and spend their money and more unnecessary red tape. It is important that we show our opposition. Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland simply said they don’t want anything to do with this legislation there and we should say the same here.”
Unions back Labour motion
Nigel Osborne the Secretary of the Sedgemoor Branch of UNISON said “UNISON welcomes the Labour group motion as this Bill will damage industrial relations. It’s unnecessary and draconian. UNISON already has a good working relationship with Sedgemoor and of the 8% of my time I spend on Union activities, 78% of that is actually consultation work on behalf of the Council. This legislation is designed to tackle major strike action in transport, or at the Post Office which can have a national effect but are not an issue within Sedgemoor”. Mr Osborne also criticised the Bill’s attempts to replace DOCAS (whereby subs are deducated at source) and failure to allow electronic voting.
Picking an unnecessary fight
Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) seconding the motion added “The Council has the chance here to support it’s workforce and urge caution to the government in picking this unnecessary fight . The bill will lead to a deterioration of good industrial relations and is designed to reduce civil liberties and human rights.”
The Labour Group motion called on the Council to publically reject the Government’s attack on Trades Unions, to write to the Secretary of State stating the Council’s opposition to the Bill, to maintain the current level of release time for TU reps, to write to all MPs encouraging opposition, to refuse to use Agency workers to cover permanent staff during industrial action and to continue the DOCAS- (subs deducted at source) option.
Leader of SDC Cllr Duncan McGinty (Con, East Polden) announced he would oppose the motion saying “Sedgemoor already supports it’s workforce and while Trades Unions have a right to strike they also have an obligation not to disrupt the public going about their daily business with those strikes. This Bill comes from a very important Conservative manifesto pledge and I hope it’s carried out.”
The Chamber divided (Lab/Lib v Con/UKIP) and the motion was lost 27-10.
Subsequent to the motion Cllr McGinty announced he would nevertheless look at the situation regarding DOCAS and take this up via the Local Government Association.