Yesterday the Tories brought forward their much debated Trade Union Bill.
It is quite frankly an assault on working people that even Thatcher wouldn’t have dared. But these children of Thatcher are set on creating a perfect storm to remove all dissent to their agenda of cuts, privatisation and a labour market that works for the few not the many.
When you take this Bill, and add it to changes to voter registration, throw in the planned changes to Westminster boundaries (which coincidentally will hit Labour hardest), giving the BBC a good kicking and add a healthy dose of the Gagging Act put in place in the last parliament, there’s a clear picture emerging. The Tories are set on creating a one party state where only those with money in the bank have a say in the political process.
This Bill – and the other measures I’ve just mentioned – are about power. Power – and who has it.
So the Trade Union Bill will seek to limit the political activity of unions, moving to an opt in system within 3 months of the bill being enacted – but nothing on the companies who ram tens of millions into Tory Party coffers without balloting their share holders. Where’s their opt in? I will never apologise for our union being political because politics is too important to leave to be politicians. Trade union funding is the cleanest, most transparent and regulated money in politics. I wait the United and Cecil Club Reform Bill with baited breath.
Agency workers will be brought in to break legal industrial action. The laugh here is that the unions won the few rights agency workers currently have and the Tories would take those away in Europe.
Arbitrary ballot thresholds are on their way when the Business Secretary himself wouldn’t be elected if it applied to him. Police and Crime Commissioners wouldn’t even come close.
Pickets will be subject to draconian restrictions and workers criminalised for standing up for themselves, but then again this is the administration that won’t grant an inquiry into Orgreave yet talks about fairness.
The Bill aims to tie the union movement down in endless bureaucracy, take power from the hands of working people and silence those dinner ladies, paramedics, engineers and factory workers who dare to pay a few pence a week for a voice in the political process – no cozy dinners at Downing Street for them.
The timing is also something to note. Right now, one of the first bills out of the gate – why do we warrant such great importance?Well, they really don’t like us. But mainly it’s because this government are planning an all out assault on our public services and taking the unions out of action removes the last line of defence public sector workers – and all of us who rely on those services – have.
But here’s the thing. People like us didn’t always have the vote. We fought for it. The GMB’s founding campaign was for an 8 hour day. Holiday pay, maternity rights, equal pay, a minimum wage – nothing we have was ever given to us, we’ve fought for the every step of the way. And we’ll fight for this too. The people we represent need us to and would expect nothing less.
We don’t give in to bullies, let alone the Bullingdon variety.
Tim Roache is regional secretary of Yorkshire and North Derbyshire, chair of Class and chair of Yorkshire and the Humber TUC