Employment rights and unions under fire

The last few years have put the work rights of ordinary people in the UK under real threat.

We've seen cuts in maternity leave rights, slashed protection from unfair dismissals, and new up front fees pricing many workers out of employment tribunals. Plus of course the explosion of casualised jobs, with ‘zero hours’ contracts just the tip of the iceberg, is undermining the hard-won employment rights of millions. But, with an economic recovery of sorts on the way, surely now’s the time to restore some balance to the employer-employee relationship? Unfortunately, that’s not how the Conservative Party see it. Their campaign for a second term in office after this May's election includes a worrying pledge to reduce the bargaining power of workers even further with draconian limits on union activity (despite the fact that union activities in the UK already have some of the tightest regulations in the developed world). Their election proposals would:

  • impose a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots (a threshold rarely achieved in any voting forum);
  • require a majority voting ‘yes’ (i.e. an abstention becomes a de facto ‘no’ vote);
  • oblige union organisers to give their names, phone numbers and other important information to their employer (giving them greater pre-emptive power to have industrial actions banned through the courts);
  • increase surveillance of peaceful picket lines; and
  • make it a criminal offence for more than six people to protest in one place.

They’ve also thus far rejected the call to bring member balloting into the 21st century with online voting (the best prospect of achieving the high levels of participation mooted). Strong trade unions and fair rights for working people are vital parts of any fair and prosperous society. Societies with weak unions tend to be less fair and more unequal – with soaring inequality often holding back sustainable economic growth. Unionised workplaces are generally more harmonious, as they've got better channels for consultation between workers and management. They're also often better paid, safer and more environmentally friendly.

Can you help?

  • Help us tell our politicians to let unions ballot members online, whoever wins the election.
  • And if you're not a union member yet yourself, you can help ensure the rights and concerns of ordinary people aren't brushed aside by the powerful by joining up and adding your voice. Learn more about how a union can help you.

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