General secretary Mike Clancy told the audience of activists, national executive members and guests from other unions that the government’s bill lacked evidence and posed important questions about the place of unions in civic society.
“The bill is focused on the small proportion of time unions spend on disputes. It does not mention what they do for most of the time – working in partnership with employers on behalf of their members,” he added.
International labour law
Binder Bansel, head of employment at Prospect’s solicitors, Pattinson & Brewer outlined some of the key issues in the bill and areas he believed could be challenged under European and international labour law.
Bansel questioned whether the new restrictions on industrial action would be compatible with International Labour Organisation conventions.
International law says workers have the right to organise. If the bill becomes law as it stands, there may be legal challenges as to whether its most restrictive parts deny these rights, he added.
Sarah Veale, the second guest speaker, talked about the campaigning and political work being done around the bill – in particular, lobbying the large number of cross bench and Lib Dem peers in the House of Lords.
She said the Lords had proposed several amendments to the bill, including reviewing the parts of the bill relating to political funds. They had already voted to set up a select committee to examine political funds and report back by the end of February.
Contributions from the audience stressed the positive work being done by unions and the TUC in challenging the bill.
Prospect legal officer Marion Scovell said that although the bill will undoubtedly come into force later this year, its final shape was still unclear. “There is still much more lobbying to be done to seek improvements,” she added.
Contributors drew on the positive impact of unions and the very real difference they can make for their members.
“Despite the hostile political climate, we can celebrate union successes and resilience,” said Scovell.
Heart Unions week
Members are encouraged to spread the word by supporting the Prospect at Work campaign and the TUC’s Heart Unions week from 8-14 February.
Is your workplace taking part in the Big Workplace meeting on Tuesday 9 February at 12.45? TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and a special guest will be discussing the TU bill during a live online presentation.
To take part, all you need is a group of Prospect members, a computer, tablet, or even just smart phones.
If you are holding a meeting, please let the TUC and Prospect’s legal team know.
Share your activity on social media #ProspectAtWork and #HeartUnions