Trade union bill – What happened in the Commons?
Thanks to everyone who joined the campaign and helped ask our MPs to oppose the trade union bill and protect the fundamental right to strike. Tens of thousands of you signed petitions, wrote emails, tweeted and shared, contributed to consultations, told your personal stories, and lobbied your MPs in person.
Together we turned an issue that the media barely reported into a wave that caught the government by surprise, and led to parts of the bill being dropped to head off a backbench revolt.
But ultimately, we weren’t able to convince MPs to overturn the bill, or to back amendments that would reduce its harmful effects. Government and opposition lines both stayed solid and the government got its bill through the House of Commons at last night’s final reading.
It wasn’t without a fight however, with a powerful case against the bill made from both the Labour and SNP benches. Some Conservative MPs (Jeremy Lefroy, Richard Fuller, David Davis, Sarah Wollaston, Stephen McPartland and David Burrowes get honourable mentions) made helpful and principled comments against parts of the bill, or put their names to amendments.
And besides the expected partial climbdown on picketing regulations, minister Nick Boles gave one concession after a strong debate on his proposed ban on ‘check-off’ (where union members have the option to pay for membership subs direct through salaries). He extended the notice period to a year to help unions adjust. Although it’s a relatively minor change to an overwhelmingly bad law, it’ll make a big difference to unions being forced to change their membership systems within a very short period.
The bill now goes to the House of Lords, where it has another long process to navigate. The government may have won the Commons vote but it lost much of the argument, and some of the issues that were well voiced last night may well get a better hearing by Peers, some of whom are more independently minded than our party-loyalist MPs.
After last night, we expect to hear more about ‘check-off’ for sure, as well as the case for secure online and workplace balloting for unions, amongst other parts of the bill. We’ll keep you posted as things develop.