Thursday, 23 September 2010

Why I am supporting The Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill

I will join Labour MPs in supporting the 2nd reading of a Bill to remove some of the most restrictive and damaging burdens facing trade unions today.

The Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill will receive its 2nd reading in Parliament on Friday, 22nd October and will be preceded by a national lobby of Parliament on Wednesday, 13th October.

A number of high profile court cases including Network Rail v RMT Union (April 2010) and British Airways v Unite the Union (Dec 2009) have demonstrated that current legislation places onerous and excessively complicated duties on trade unions in relation to balloting and notice procedures.

British Airways Cabin Crew voted to strike by a margin of 92.5% on a ballot turnout of 80% of 12,000 workers. The court granted BA an injunction on the basis that the ballot included an unknown number of members amongst 811 crew who had since taken redundancy despite the fact that, even if the 811 had all been members and had all voted for stike action and should all have been excluded, the vote would still have been 91.5% in favour of action.

Trade unions are being prevented from inplementing democratic decisions of their members by employers applying and winning court injunctions based on minor technical errors.

The Bill seeks to amend the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation Act) 1992 by extending the protections offered by Section 232B relating to small, accidental errors by introducing 5 main improvements.

1. Small accidental failures in ballots will be disregarded.
2. Small accidental failures in notices will be disregarded.
3. Minor errors in the information about the result of a ballot will be
4. Forensic examination of procedures will end and be replaced with
    the concept of ‘substantial compliance’
5. The burden of proof in injunctions will shift so that evidence will be
    required that ‘substantial complaince’ has not taken place.

We have seen in the last year a succession of disputes where employers have been able to exploit loopholes in the law by using minor technical errors in a trade union ballot to thwart the democratic wishes of trade unionists from taking strike action.

This resort to the courts by some employers is bringing current trade union and labour relations law into disrepute and undermining the good industrial relations which are the norm in this country. This cannot be right and that’s why I will support this Bill and the lobby of Parliament next month.

Click here for details of the national lobby of Parliament.