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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

And the final score is - Margaret Thatcher: 87 The Unions: 0

So, the government is going to take action against the Unions. They are to criminalise unlawful picketing, allow employers to hire strike breaking agency staff and make it harder for workers to strike legally and act against union funding for Labour.

 A lot of it sounds quite reasonable so long as you just look at what they say, and not what the Conservative party are doing.

 Propose that unlawful or intimidatory picketing should become a criminal as opposed to civil offence and new protections should be available for those workers unwilling to strike. All this sounds reasonable, but it has become easier for employers to make a picket illegal. Which in effect makes it harder for workers to protest against an employer.

 Strike breaking appears understandable. After all, an employer still has to provide its function. But it is recognised in most developed nations that it is unfair for this to occur. I have to say that if this was the 1970's when unions had more power, I might be less against this, but unions in the UK have much less power than in other developed nations and there is a more confrontational attitude to unions in the UK compared to other nations where employers and unions work together to safeguard jobs and continued prosperity for the company within the economic climate.

 When it comes to political funding though, that is where I have an issue. It sounds reasonable to ensure that union members can opt in to paying money to the Labour party, but at present, they can opt out. This viewpoint does not apply to corporate donations which the Conservatives benefit from. An employee, or shareholder can not ask for the money that is given to come back to them if that is not what they wish when a corporation makes a donation. As it is, unions are limited when it comes to political campaigning, but the right wing press can smear the Labour party as much as they like.

 But my biggest gripe is with the way that voting for strike action is changing. Not only is the mandate for strike action being limited, but there is to be an electoral threshold where the government are to impose a minimum 50% turnout and for public sector strikes would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote. This from a government that was not elected by 50% of those who voted, let alone 50% of those eligible to vote. It is argued that the MP's in Parliament are not elected by 50% of the electorate of the constituencies that they serve, but the counter argument is that there was a referendum on electoral reform and the first past the post system was kept. However, when it came to the Police and crime commissioner elections for England and Wales, the turnout was much less than 50%, but the government at the time argued that they still had democratic legitimacy. So, it is all right to have less than half the electorate vote for a police and crime commissioner, but it is not acceptable for this to occur with a strike.

 Sounds unfair to me. But, I doubt that anyone will notice these issues. Which is a shame as this seems to work against having fair and accountable democracy that protects employees and employers.

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