Sunday, April 03, 2016

What next for the Trade Union Bill?

The Trade Union Bill is still at the report stage in the House of Lords, where it will be debated again on 19 April before being sent back to the House of Commons.

The Government could seek to reverse the amendments which have been, and may be, agreed in the Lords – but it is a testament to the effectiveness of lobbying in the Lords that amendments have been agreed which not only require a review of electronic voting, but also would prevent the switch to “opting-in” to political funds for existing members and remove the reserve power of the Secretary of State to intervene in facility time arrangements in particular organisations.

The list of amendments reveals that there is another amendment (Amendment 21), yet to be debated, which would add to Clause 14 some wording which would neutralise the ban on deduction of union subscriptions from salaries in the public sector. This amendment stands in the name of some of the Lords who moved the previously successful amendments, which may give some grounds for optimism.

The Parliamentary timetable may raise a question about whether the NEC Rule Amendments on the political fund will be premature (or even unnecessary) at Conference in June since, were the Lords Amendments already agreed to survive a return to the Commons, they would no longer be appropriate (although our Rule Book would still stand in need of amendments to Rule J which we could not make until at least June 2017 unless we convened a special Conference...)

We would, however, be unwise not to prepare to use National Delegate Conference to prepare activists for the switch from DOCAS to Direct Debit which will be necessary unless Lords Amendment 21 to the Trade Union Bill makes it through both Houses of Parliament in the next few weeks.

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