The new Tory tax on trade unions is an attack on working people

Imran Hussain
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Throughout the pandemic, working around the clock to support frontline workers in our NHS, schools, care homes and elsewhere as they grappled with the challenge of Covid-19 were our proud trade unions. And what do they get in return for that? The government’s most recent assault to trade unions, arriving in parliament today.

Without so much as a proper debate, they plan to introduce a new levy on trade unions to pay for the handling of complaints against unions. Ministers claim this is necessary, but last year the Certification Officer dealt with just 34 complaints, not one of which was pursued with an enforcement order. Not only that, but an employment lawyer claims that income from the levy could be as much as £30m a year, far beyond the Certification Officer’s £700,000 running costs.

It will be working people who lose out as unions are forced to spend money that should instead be spent on representing them. The truth is the levy has nothing to do with the government’s claim of improving transparency, but everything to do with their opposition to workers organising to improve their pay, terms and conditions.

The government also plans to grant the Certification Officer new powers to investigate unions and tie them up in prolonged cases. Even if no action is taken following allegations, it will be all too easy for a few bad faith actors to divert resources away from union members’ interests.

As democratic institutions accountable to their members, unions already maintain high standards, which is why this new levy and new rules are so unnecessary. The government’s failure to provide any evidence that this legislation is needed shows us clearly that their aims are to tie up trade unions. The Labour Party will be voting against these changes and proudly making the case for trade unionism in parliament.

Ultimately, when working people enjoy security, prosperity and respect in their jobs our whole society is better. Businesses thrive when workers do well. Trade union members on average get paid more and work in better, fairer and safer workplaces. There remains power in a union, even when this government is so hell bent on eroding it.


More from LabourList


We provide our content free, but providing daily Labour news, comment and analysis costs money. Small monthly donations from readers like you keep us going. To those already donating: thank you.

If you can afford it, can you join our supporters giving £10 a month?

And if you’re not already reading the best daily round-up of Labour news, analysis and comment…