The Trade Union Bill Is Now Law - Assessing the Campaign to Stop It
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I would like to thank the Enterprise and Business Committee for its consideration of the legislative consent motion.
The committee concluded that a legislative consent motion is required in relation to various provisions of the Bill, and that it is for the Assembly to liberal democrats trade union bill whether or not to give that consent. The First Minister and I have repeatedly set out the clear arguments why this is liberal democrats trade union bill the case. The explanatory notes to the Bill claim that the Bill is seeking to protect essential public services against strikes.
The categories of important public services subject to the additional 40 per cent overall membership support threshold for industrial action include health services, education of those aged under 17, and fire services, all of which are plainly devolved. Policy on how to support or protect the delivery of devolved public services is for the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales.
This includes the way public sector bodies work with trade unions to ensure effective delivery of services to the public. Similarly, it cannot be right for the Liberal democrats trade union bill Government, blind to devolved service-delivery reforms in Wales, to specify how much union facility time is required or to ban the administration of check-off arrangements in public services. At our workforce partnership council—. Can he, therefore, confirm that the terms set out in devolution guidance note 9, paragraph 11, have not been adhered to by liberal democrats trade union bill UK Government in this case—that there has not been proper consultation, either through the Wales Office or directly with Welsh Government?
Well, certainly not in our view. Indeed, some of the proposals that have come forward for the Trade Union Bill were not discussed at all with us in advance, and I think the Member is right to raise that issue. At our workforce partnership council, both public service employers and trade unions have been unanimous in their opposition to the Bill, expressing grave concern about its impact on our model of social partnership in Wales. In Wales, we have a good record of resolving disputes. Firefighters took industrial action in England over pensions; they were not doing so in Wales.
In contrast, we believe this Bill—the Trade Union Bill—will lead to a confrontational relationship between employers and the workforce. Even some Conservative MPs have criticised the draconian nature of the Bill. The Bill is damaging, divisive and risks liberal democrats trade union bill public services and the economy. The Welsh Government believes it will lead to a confrontational relationship between employers and workforce.
It contrasts sharply with the constructive social partnership approach in Wales, valuing our workforce, supporting public services and encouraging public service workers in bringing forward solutions. Overall, we believe the Bill is flawed and should not be pursued. Significant parts of the Bill relate specifically to public services that are clearly devolved, and it is not acceptable for the UK Government to try to impose it on Wales. We will oppose this Bill.
We want the UK Government to amend it to liberal democrats trade union bill Wales and Welsh public services from its provisions, and we will seek to reverse it, if passed, in the next Assembly if they fail to amend it. I urge Members to oppose the motion today. We will be supporting the LCM this afternoon. We do believe it is perfectly legitimate for the UK Government to legislate in this particular area.
It was part of the Conservative manifesto that was put before the people, and the intention that the Bill was seeking to achieve—those aspects were clearly laid out in the manifesto, as well. Unions have a very important role to play in the workplace, representing workers where grievances are put forward and, in particular, advocating to improve conditions and terms and conditions where that is appropriate. I will stand and advocate and support the role of trade unions in making sure that they do stand up for their members in the workplace, do get liberal democrats trade union bill terms and conditions, and, ultimately, seek a better deal where that deal can improve the working environment for members up and down Wales and, indeed, across the United Kingdom.
What I will not stand up and support is for Len McCluskey and his mob to use you lot to live their ambitions. Ultimately, that is why we—[Interruption. And it is in liberal democrats trade union bill Parliament—as employment law is the responsibility of the UK Government and the Westminster Parliament—where this debate, this discussion and that decision should be taken. And that is why we will be voting to support this LCM this afternoon.
Oh, well, definitely not. But, I would appreciate it—. These are very important matters, of course—important to public services in Wales—vital public services such as health and education—[Interruption. This is a very serious discussion, so, please, if you want to laugh, go outside the Chamber.
As I said, these are very important matters, obviously; health and education are amongst the very most important responsibilities of Welsh Government and, indeed, the Welsh Assembly—vital duties to discharge in the interests of the people of Wales and all of our communities. Because as things currently stand, the rights of employees through representation by their trade unions have been attacked and diminished over a period of time, and this is another step—this proposed Trade Union Bill—in that process.
And that would very much be to the detriment of public services—as I said, vital public services such as health and education here in Wales. As the Minister has outlined, there are specific parts of this Bill which relate specifically to those devolved public services—health, education and, indeed, fire services.
So, I think the case is crystal clear, Llywydd, why Welsh Government is opposed to this legislative consent motion, and I very much support that opposition. Davies as the Leader of the Opposition here today does show the mask slipping. I do believe that the mask has slipped in terms of the Welsh Conservatives here in Wales, who have tried to portray themselves—. In a moment—as having a very different approach when it comes to devolved matters here in Wales than that of their UK colleagues.
I give way to the leader of the opposition, Llywydd. I am grateful to him for taking the intervention. I made the point in my remarks that this was in the UK manifesto for the Conservative party. Employment law is the responsibility of Westminster, but not only was it in the manifesto, but also the clear goals that we were seeking to achieve by the legislation were there for everyone to see. And the public voted, and they returned a clear Conservative majority Government.
It is their right to legislate in this field. Llywydd, the leader of the opposition is entitled to his constitutional view. And, indeed, the Minister and the Welsh Government have set out, I believe, a convincing rationale for that different view and opposing this liberal democrats trade union bill consent motion today.
What I was talking about was the language that the leader of the opposition used: I do believe that the people of Wales will take careful note of those statements made in this Chamber liberal democrats trade union bill and react accordingly.
I think that the Conservatives have outlined their ideological position on this question this afternoon. The leader of the Conservatives has sought to attack workers in Wales through attacks on trade union leaders and Plaid Cymru distance ourselves from those remarks.
We stand by Welsh workers. On this issue, we stand together and we carry the majority of the Assembly with us. The Party of Wales, of course, believes in and supports the role of trade unions in society, along with the majority of other Assembly Members in this Chamber. Only by partnership between workers, industry and government can we do our best for our economy and for our country, and it is through respecting the workforce that we minimise disputes, reduce the need for industrial action and ensure that decisions that are taken here are influenced by the trade union movement and the people that that movement represents.
The proceedings in Westminster over this Bill were interesting; they were also deeply concerning. Plaid Cymru MPs spoke clearly against this Bill, but it is being carried through by the Conservative majority. The Bill makes no sense and it is regressive. Whatever our party political differences in this Assembly, and accepting the fact that Plaid Cymru regularly brings challenge to the current Labour Government over liberal democrats trade union bill handling of public services, Wales is not a country frequently disrupted by strike action.
Trade unions are less likely to take industrial action here, and I would argue that is because they are involved in social partnership. I know liberal democrats trade union bill the situation is similar in Scotland too. So, there are already differences of approach and the Welsh national dimension allows a new layer of opposition to this Bill.
In terms of clause 3, there is a direct description liberal democrats trade union bill policy areas that are devolved to the National Assembly; areas including health services, education, fire services and transport services are listed as important public services under the Bill.
But policy for those areas is devolved under the Government of Wales Act There is no exception in that Act for industrial relations within those policy areas. The legal opinion by Hefin Rees argues that the Welsh Government could effectively counter-legislate in the future to disapply the Trade Union Bill. Liberal democrats trade union bill argues that, on the basis of the Supreme Court judgment over the Agricultural Wages Board, we might lose that loophole if we get the reserved-powers model, which reserves employment law and industrial law.
We know that there has been traditional opposition to those fields being decided in Wales. Given that all of the parties in this Assembly and the Welsh Government support a reserved-powers model, this is something that now requires much further discussion.
So, liberal democrats trade union bill us all stand as a united Wales on this issue and promote the positive role that trade unions can and should play in Welsh society. It is this Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Government who are best placed to determine how trade union relations should be set out and legislated for in this country, and I think that that should be recognised by the UK Government.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have always believed that trade unions play a vital role in representing their members at work in both the public and private sectors. We believe getting around the negotiating table is better than striking, and unions have a role to play in that process. As Leanne Wood has pointed out, the industrial relations record in Wales is much better in the public services than it is in England.
Liberal democrats trade union bill for the unions to continue to play a positive role in public life, we must have trust in the way they are funded and be confident that industrial action will not cause disproportionate disruption to people.
This Bill is not a way of doing that. The only way we can do that is through liberal democrats trade union bill working with trade unions and with workers. Amendments were drafted by Lord Tyler to ensure that political funding will now be separated out from the Bill and examined by a cross-party committee of peers. And that is one step forward to fairer party funding, as the select committee will be able to look at broader political funding, including making political donations subject to tax relief.
Moving on to the specific clauses, we do not support Conservative plans to look at minimum turnout, as it would have major implications for other democratic turnouts and elections, including general and Welsh elections. Oh, for a minimum 40 per cent turnout or more in a general election or the sort of provisions that MPs had to meet—.
Of course, under the single transferrable vote system that would be possible, but I think we need to look at that. We want strikes to be called only when they reflect the views of the membership, so we need to encourage wider participation in trade union ballots through things like electronic voting. Workers do not strike for political reasons but to protect their pay and jobs.
Any change in trade union funding should be part of wider electoral reform, and it should certainly not be a Tory stitch-up to further increase the financial stranglehold they have over the political system. It is contrary to so many Government schemes, including around childcare and travel. In conclusion, Presiding Officer, this Bill is essentially undemocratic. It is an assault on the rights to organise, to liberal democrats trade union bill collective action and on free assembly.
We are opposed to it and the implications it has for civil liberties and human rights. If the Welsh Government, after the liberal democrats trade union bill Assembly elections, bring back a Bill to effectively nullify this Bill, then I think the Welsh Liberal Democrats will be supporting that as well.
I think it is a very crucial debate, and I think it is a very crucial point in the process of devolution. We do have a good record of resolving disputes here in Wales.