Ed – The statement below is from the Chairman of UKIP’s Trade Unionists Group. This group is approved by the NEC as an officially recognised special interest group within UKIP. This statement represents the view of the group, and is not currently UKIP’s official position.
The Trade Union Act 2016 is meant to strike a better balance between the needs of businesses to trade successfully and the rights of workers to expect decent pay and conditions. Whilst the government was happy to butter up Trade Unions by conceding certain original provisions within the Bill in return for their biased support for a Remain vote in the EU Referendum, there is much to commend in this Act but also some missed opportunities to give better protection to Trade Union members.
We welcome the new requirement for a simple majority turnout, especially when strike action will adversely affect employees’ pay and relationships with their employers. We also welcome the requirement for a positive vote by at least 40% of members in those areas that provide “important public services”. However, more clarity is required on what constitutes “important public services”; for instance, does it include Air Traffic Controllers?
The notice period for strike action is extended from 7 days to 14 days. Strike action is considered the last resort following a breakdown in discussions and is not taken lightly; it will now also be more difficult to strike under the new rules. A strike is intended to hinder an employer’s day to day activities; therefore this should only be extended for “important public services”.
We welcome the announcement that new rules around picket supervisors have been dropped and instead safeguards introduced to protect against the politicisation of key roles. The ban on employers hiring agency staff during industrial action has been dropped. Hiring less experienced agency staff to perform certain tasks could increase risks to the public and there should be clear guidelines surrounding this practice, especially for “important public services”.
The provision in regard to the political levy is that all new Trade Union members will be required to opt-in with a 12 month lead-in time. For the sake of fairness current members should also be asked if they wish to continue to opt-in within 12 months of this Act becoming statute. The opt-in agreement should be renewed annually.
Currently members’ subscriptions may be deducted directly from their pay if a provision is available through their employer (known as “Checkoff”). This practice should stop, Trade Unions should be independent of employers to fully protect the interests of ordinary members and therefore the collection of subscriptions should be the responsibility of the union concerned. This also allows members to have more control.
Those members that wish to continue paying the levy must be given more say on where and how this levy is spent. All Trade Unions must produce an annual report explaining how much was raised and how and where the levy was spent. This must be made public and sent to all members paying the levy.
ACAS lacks credibility and should be abolished. It should be replaced by an arbitration service from within the private sector; the tax-payer shouldn’t be footing the bill.
The Certification Officer is to be given powers to take action against a Trade Union for any breach of statutory duties. It also needs to be more effective as an avenue for individual union members to pursue grievances.
The act also missed the opportunity to make unions more transparent and democratic.
We support online voting for internal union elections; we also wish to see more transparency around the sometimes ludicrous salaries and benefits paid to top officials.
Union leaders often enjoy six figure pay packages; they are meant to serve their members, some of whom are living on the bread line. When executives’ pay and benefits are reviewed annually they should be subject to an individual vote of the membership.
The UKIP Trade Unionists Group believes if the above amendments had been made then employers would have benefited from a fairer system and workers would be better protected from exploitation.