Monthly Archives: October 2015

Trade Union Bill

The right to strike and the proposed bill

Strikes are a rare occurrence nowadays. So why is the government so keen to take this right away? What the new bill means for working people.

Historically speaking, workers fought for decades for their right to strike. Strikes were unlawful (date and workers were imprisoned and dismissed for that. Strike is not something workers take lightly; go on a strike means loss of wage but when everything else has fallen through what do workers have left to voice their rights?

Over the last five years we have seen a systematic attack to workers rights such as 0 hour contracts and the introduction of fees to apply to an Employment Tribunal. It was hard enough to be heard at an ET and get justice. (The ET chairs are appointed from the community and more than often they side with the employer anyway).

I would imagine that conservative politicians who are all about efficiency and spending carefully public funds would base decisions on facts. However they seem to ignore facts and figures and therefore prove that their decisions are political and only political. The Tories are here to support the rich; maintain the status quo and prevent social mobility. Austerity and National Debt is only an excuse; a pill that give to the masses because they would never be voted if they were honest about their politics. Their political ideology supports free market with minimum involvement by the government. Tories cannot tolerate employment rights and decent salaries for “lower” classes i.e. working people like you and me. On the other hand unions aim to improve the working conditions and also to increase the marginal productivity of the workforce through training and skilling. And here is where the conflict starts. So what they can do to stop wages rising? What can they do to help employers bend the rules and compromise on workers safety? How can employers stop paying for sick pay and maternity? The simple answer is: Attack the unions and the right of collective action. Prevent people from even assert a better life.

Some people might think that does not really affect them because they have never participated in a strike anyway.
Well, first they have benefited from other people’s fights. Remember the attack on local government pension scheme in 2011-2012? If we did not strike and protest, the money we paid every month from our salaries for our private pension scheme would have gone to the treasury to subsidise the bail out of banks. So somebody else saved your money.
Second, it is the principle. The right to strike is a democratic right. All democracies around the world respect this right and it is only authoritarian governments and dictatorships in third world countries that attach the right to strike.
Last but not least, the new bill means that employers do not need to enter into a dialogue with employees. They can reduce salaries, or take away benefits without anyone being able to stop them. So you can see you salary going down, or other benefits such as holiday entitlement being reduced and progressively lost. The problem is that it takes a lot of effort to win small battles but it is so easy to lose what generations before us fought to achieve. Everything we take for granted today is because others have fought for it and very often died for it such as votes for women and equal pay. Worth mentioning here that women have not achieved equal pay in sectors where there are no recognised unions and national statistics show that women can earn over 20% less than men doing the same job. In retail a sector where there are no recognised unions by the employers, people are obliged to work on Sunday and Bank Holidays without getting paid extra baring in mind they are on minimum wage. They have their day off and AL dictated on them so home –work life balance is out of question.

Another good example is the attack to social workers. Many councils employ non-qualified staff to do the job of a social worker. I am not going to look into the risks for public safety but only to what this means for workers. Many workers in social care believe that this is an opportunity for them to get a better salary. Wrong! Their responsibilities will increase but not the salary. It is the social workers’ salary that will go down. There is a national shortage of social workers so their salaries are rising. Instead of employers providing opportunities for more people to get training and assisting staff with that, they found a way to keep everyone on a lower pay and the beauty of it is that they have turned social workers and unqualified social care staff against each other so they can continue undisturbed. Divide and Conquer still works.

If we do not react now, we will feel the pain in our pockets and in our lives shortly.
But then it would be too late to do anything about it. The battle would take be huge and long similar to the battles in the 20s and 30s (probably harder).