You couldn’t be blamed for not being aware that laws on trade unions and the right to strike are being changed. The BBC certainly didn’t feel that the Third Reading and final debate deserved much of a mention. The government’s draconian proposals passed 305 votes to 271. Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said,“This legislation is designed to take away people’s power and hand it to the few.”
The Bill seeks to severely curtail industrial action through ballot thresholds and other measures that would entangle unions in impossibly bureaucratic red tape, but the vast majority of the public fully supports the fundamental right to strike, with 84 per cent expressing support for workers’ right to withdraw their labour in a dispute. A poll, conducted by independent pollsters Survation on behalf of Unite, found that only 11 per cent of people ranked trade union legislation as a top ten issue that this government should be concerned with. Of the 20 issues that respondents thought their MPs should be concerned with, the NHS topped the list, with trade union legislation coming in last.
David Cameron has said that the imposition of strike thresholds was motivated by a desire to increase low turnouts, but so far he has rejected an easy and pragmatic solution proposed by Unite and other trade unions — secure workplace balloting. Contradicting the government’s contention that these ballots are open to fraud, the Electoral Reform Services, an organisation highly experienced in running industrial ballots, has confirmed that it is perfectly possible to run workplace ballots that are secret and secure against fraud or intimidation.