Cameron ‘making a pig’s ear’ of Trade Union Bill - say Sunderland Council

Discussions held at the latest Sunderland City Council meeting

Discussions held at the latest Sunderland City Council meeting

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A councillor has slammed a proposed bill to tighten rules on trade union strike ballots as “Draconian.”

The government wants to impose a minimum 50 per cent turnout in strike ballots - with public sector strikes also requiring the backing of at least 40 per cent of those eligible to vote.

Cameron, his cabinet and colleagues have gone further than Margaret Thatcher would have dared to go. Cameron and Co are making a right pig’s ear of this.

Coun Norma Wright

The Trade Union Bill would also double the amount of notice unions have to give before a strike can be held - from seven to 14 days; allow employers to use agency workers to replace striking staff and introduce fines of up to £20,000 on unions if pickets do not wear an official armband.

Speaking at a meeting of Sunderland City Council, Labour councillor David Allan said: “It’s been regarded for decades that trade unions play a vital role in representing millions of working people in this country.

“There is no justification for passing such a Draconian piece of legislation. Some of these restrictions are unbelievable. What have we seen on TV screens in the last decade that has caused any concerns over picketing in this country?”

He added: “What this is about is altering the balance of power in industrial relations in the UK. This is about emasculating trade unions, the only organisations left to defend ordinary working people in this country.”

Speaking in response to a motion to oppose the Trade Union Bill and support the Northern TUC and civil liberties groups in campaigning to defend the right to strike, Conservative councillor Michael Dixon said: “I wonder how harmonious industrial relations have been achieved in recent times, perhaps because of Conservative legislation.

“This is not an attack on trade unions, as an organisation, who have the support of the vast majority of Conservatives, many of us have been part of one.”

Though Coun Dixon said he agreed with aspects of the motion, he said the people affected by strikes needed to be considered, especially because of disruption caused to transport and during holiday times.

“It’s an action which has a massive impact on the livelihood of others,” he said.

Labour councillor Norma Wright said the government had gone too far with the proposed bill.

“Cameron, his cabinet and colleagues have gone further than Margaret Thatcher would have dared to go,” she said. “Cameron and Co are making a right pig’s ear of this.”

The motion to oppose the bill was approved by council.

Speaking after the meeting, John Kelly, branch secretary, Unite Sunderland City Council Branch, said: “Once again the Conservatives are trying to undermine the rights and ability of working people to organise for better terms and conditions in the workplace. So it is reassuring that ‎Sunderland City Council have shown their support to the trade union movement by opposing the Trade Union Bill at the council meeting tonight.

“Our members have had an extremely difficult five years as employees within Sunderland City Council, with the employer having to make huge efficiencies across all services. This of course is due to cuts imposed on them from the current Conservative and previous Coalition governments.

“There is and always has been an alternative to austerity and hopefully, Sunderland City Council will support Jeremy Corbyn‎, their new party leader, in supporting his drive to push forward this option.”