This morning in Parliament I spoke out against new government legislation that would hit trade unions with huge new levies and fines.
Speaking in the Delegated Legislation Committee scrutinising the legislation, I joined Labour’s frontbench spokesperson Imran Hussain in challenging these law changes, which the TUC have rightly called “cynical and ideological”.
The changes include levies on trade unions to fund the Certifications Officer. This treats trade unions like profit-making companies who are required to fund their own regulator – levies which don’t apply to other bodies with social roles like charities or political parties.
Another regressive proposal would see unions subject to fines of up to £20,000 for minor statutory breaches. This implies that unions have a track record of non-compliance with legal duties, but this could scarcely be further from the truth. As I highlighted in Parliament today, the Certification Officer’s annual report for 2020/21 shows that she dealt with just 34 complaints last year – that’s one for every 200,000 union members – and no enforcements orders were required as a result.
Despite our opposition, these law changes were voted through by Tory MPs.
The government suggested these pieces of legislation were merely ‘tidying up’ elements of the Trade Union Bill they passed in 2016 – but that is also far from true. One of the few positives that emerged from the passage of that bill was the commitment to an independent review on electronic balloting for unions during important votes like electing a new general secretary – a common-sense measure. The review came a year later and recommended e-balloting – a system which is already used by organisations like the National Trust and, ironically, the Conservative Party – but the government have still not responded to it over four years on.
I am proud to be a trade union member. Every day unions play a vital role in delivering better pay and conditions for working people in every corner of the country. It is telling that at a time when governments around the world are recognising the benefits of collective bargaining, this Tory government chooses to spend parliamentary time on laws which create unnecessary expense and red tape for trade unions. For all their bluster, this is not a government on the side of workers.