Jo Johnson, Orpington’s Tory MP is voting for the Government’s Trade Union Bill. Nigel de Gruchy, Orpington Labour Party’s Secretary wrote to him voice his concerns on this damaging piece of legislation, prohibiting already limited democratic processes for working people to voice their opinion to this country’s employers. Below is Nigel’s correspondence with Jo, or one of his assistants since September 14th 2015
I call upon you to vote against the Trade Union Bill.
It is mean minded vindictivie bill and makes a complete mockery of David Cameron’s cynical claim to represent the interests of working people.
Nigel de Gruchy
Nigel received the following reply
Dear Mr de Gruchy,
Thank you for writing to me about strike laws and the Trade Union Bill.
Trade unions are valuable institutions in British society and dedicated trade unionists have a strong history of working hard to represent their members, campaigning for improved safety at work and giving support to their members when it is needed. But it is only fair that the rights of unions are balanced with the rights of hardworking taxpayers who rely on key public services.
It is wrong that politicised union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members voted for; causing misery for millions of people and harming our economy too.
To redress this, the Government will rebalance the interest of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions by introducing a 50 per cent voting threshold for union ballot turnouts. The requirement for there to be a simple majority of votes in favour would remain.
To tackle the disproportionate impact of strikes in essential public services such as health, education, fire and transport, a requirement will be introduced in addition to the 50 per cent minimum voting turnout so that 40 per cent of those eligible must vote in favour of industrial action for it to take place. Action will also be taken to ensure strikes cannot be called on the basis of ballots conducted years before.
The Government will also introduce a transparent opt-in process for union subscriptions to political funds. Political donations should always be voluntary and this will help ensure that is the case.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.
Member of Parliament for Orpington
Nigel’s reply is as follows
I write to you today, 2 Nov, the occasion of the Third Reading in the Commons on the Trade Union Bill. I also write in response to your letter, 16 Sept, sent by email to me by a Mr. Alex Manning. I assume it to be the ‘standard departmental’ reply of the Government on the Bill.
I don’t know if you appreciate the irony of the first main paragraph, bestowing praise on the trade union movement for historic achievements, which would have been impossible to secure under the anti-trade union measures lined up in the Bill.
The Conservative Government betrays a warped sense of “balance” in asserting that the rights of trade unions need to be further constrained to balance those of “hardworking taxpayers”. Incidentally, will the Government ever cease deploying the excruciating cliché ‘hardworking anybody’ has now become? The number of occasions industrial action has been deployed in recent times is extremely low. The hurdles that have to be overcome by unions to take action safe from legal challenge are already very high and the present Bill will make it virtually impossible in today’s circumstances. The refusal of the Government to countenance electronic and workplace balloting (offered by the unions to raise turnout) betrays the nefarious motives behind the Bill. It will make a mockery of the Conservative Party’s claim to believe in the right to take action which is the basic feature distinguishing trade unions from other kinds of organisations.
In a highly controversial political statement the Government with brazen cheek, not to mention factual inaccuracy, brands all trade union leaders as “politicised”. On top of that the Government with breath-taking hypocrisy and exaggeration alleges it is wrong for unions ‘to hold the country to ransom with demands supported only by a small percentage of their members.’ Such constraint is not exercised by the Government as it ploughs ahead with highly controversial measures when it has only received 24% support from those entitled to vote.
There are many other measures in the Bill which are draconian, intolerant and hostile to freedom of association. They include huge bureaucracy-increasing and excessive powers to the Certification Officer to regulate the activities of unions and impose fines without reference to the courts and procedures for appeal. Employers will be able to hire strike-breaking agency staff with reckless disregard for the risks to health and safety. Individuals will have to be identified and subject to potentially intrusive scrutiny by the police, a measure normally the preserve of a police state. Incredibly, unions will be required to give two weeks notification to the police on the use they intend to make of social media, a shameless attack on free speech. Unions’ political donations will be subject to more restrictions while other aspects of controversial party political funding are ignored despite them being in the words of the Prime Minister “the next scandal waiting to happen.” The richest irony of all was the appearance of the word “transparent” in a Conservative Party document concerning donations to political parties.
In summary, the Trade Union Bill exudes more than an odious whiff of dictatorship, ill becoming any political party in the UK. It is a disgraceful Bill which ought to be thrown out.
Nigel de Gruchy.