Much of the last year was spent fighting the government’s unnecessary and undemocratic Trade Union Act. Together, the union movement and our friends – and some unusual allies – in both Houses of Parliament were able to secure significant concessions, which mean that the impact of the legislation is less far-reaching than we expected. But the implications of the Act remain significant – and the work on the detailed implementation of the proposals is still to come.
In the coming year, the TUC will lead the trade union movement in opposing any moves to allow agency workers to break strikes – a proposal announced but not yet brought forward. We will also make sure the union movement makes a strong case for allowing unions to use electronic balloting for industrial action when the government announces the review they conceded during the Bill’s passage. It must be set up by November; we will seek to ensure that the government cannot hide behind bogus concerns about security that limit unions’ ability to engage our members through modern means in their homes and workplaces. We will also continue with our forensic scrutiny and detailed lobbying on the regulations that accompany the Act, alongside our member unions, taking every opportunity to minimise the impact of these changes. And throughout, we will argue for the next government to repeal the Trade Union Act in its entirety.
The Trade Union Act was a massive attack on our movement’s right to exist, and on the right to strike. But as always, when attacked, we must respond by growing stronger and getting bigger.
The right response now to the new restrictions placed on unions is to refocus on membership growth, extending collective bargaining and getting closer than ever to our members’ industrial concerns. That will put us in the best possible position to win ballots (including in those sectors now subject to the double threshold), to raise turnout at elections and ballots, and ensure union income cannot be threatened by government interference. The TUC will assist member unions to meet this huge challenge, and will not hesitate to support member unions as they chart their path into a post-Trade Union Act future.
At the heart of our movement are our reps – a vital resource for our members. We will find better ways to support them through a modern education offer that uses digital and sharing good practice to build the skills, knowledge and confidence reps need to be as effective as they can be at work.