Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 14.32.08MIDDLESBROUGH Council is calling on the government to re-think its Trade Union Bill, describing the potential changes as ‘unfair’, ‘undemocratic’ and ‘unnecessary’.

The recently published Bill sets out various reforms to the law regulating trade union activity including strike ballots, facility time, intimidation of non-striking workers and the use of agency staff during industrial action.

New thresholds would require 50% of those being asked to strike to vote and in certain areas – including health and education – 40% of those eligible would need to vote in favour.

This means that with a 50% turnout, 80% of those voting would have to vote in favour, a threshold not required in in other democratic process such as the election of MPs or local councillors.

Middlesbrough Council is also endorsing a statement on behalf of the North East Regional Employers Organisation which reads: “We are surprised and disappointed that we are to lose the autonomy to take our own decisions around these important areas for employee engagement, particularly given the government’s rhetorical commitments to the localism agenda.

“We call on the government to think again on these plans.”

Following consultation with Executive colleagues, Councillor Nicky Walker, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Finance and Governance, has drawn up a response to the government highlighting a number of concerns.

Councillor Walker said: “The Bill is quite simply unfair, and may well have a detrimental impact on employer/employee relations.

“While it claims to assist employers by making strike action more difficult, this is unnecessary, strike action is taken as a last rather than first resort and the measures are likely to come at a cost.

“It could well result in other types of action being taken – such as work to rule or withdrawal of goodwill – which are potentially more damaging to the services delivered to the public than time-limited strike action.

“The combined impact of these proposals will make it very difficult for unions to be able to call lawful strike action and in some service areas virtually impossible. 

“If on the relatively rare occasions when the unions feel the need to strike these proposals leave them virtually unable to do so, there risk of general dissatisfaction may well increase.

“As an authority, we always try to engage meaningfully with the unions to avoid strike action, and will continue to do so.”

Gill Hale, Regional Secretary of public sector trade union UNISON, said: “UNISON welcomes the statement by Middlesbrough Council in relation to the Trade Union Bill.

“This is a draconian piece of legislation attacking the rights of trade union members to take strike action in defence of their terms and conditions of employment.

“The Trade Union Bill currently before Parliament is unfair, unnecessary and undemocratic.

“MPs need to focus on the real problems the country faces and talk to us about how we can work together for a better future.”