Trade Union Act passed despite criticism

The government’s controversial Trade Union Bill has passed into law, despite accusations from unions that it posed a ’serious threat’ to industrial relations.

The government has argued that the Act will modernise unions and ensure that strikes only go ahead when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50 per cent.

Current regulations direct that in public services, 40 per cent of eligible members must giver their support before industrial action can take place.

Employment minister Nick Boles said: “These changes will ensure people are only ever disrupted by industrial action when it is supported by a reasonable proportion of union members. The Trade Union Act means the rights of the public to go about their lives are fairly balanced with members’ ability to strike.”

Part of the proposals of the Bill involved stopping all council staff from paying union fees directly from their wages. However, the move was abandoned after Unison claimed it was a ‘malicious political manoeuvre designed to starve trade unions of money’. The policy will now only apply to new members and will be phased in gradually.

The U-turn was welcomed by the TUC. Commenting on the alteration to the Bill, Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “While we are pleased to have secured significant changes to the Trade Union Bill, it still remains a very bad and divisive bill.

“The history books will show that the government’s first major act of this Parliament has been to attack the right to strike – a fundamental British liberty.

“This legislation, even in its amended form, poses a serious threat to good industrial relations and is completely unnecessary.”