It seems Labour Party conference will take a big step forward on trade union rights

By a conference delegate

Thanks to the model motions promoted by The Clarion, it seems that Labour Party conference will today take a major step forward on the question of workers’ and trade union rights.

Not everything we wanted has got in – it seems that Labour officials were reluctant to have a explicit reference to restoring the right to solidarity and political strikes, though in effect that is what the text says: “repeal the TU Act and anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s and 90s”. In fact in some respects it goes further than the motion passed in 2015 (see here) which did not refer to the Thatcher/Major anti-union laws after explicit opposition to them was removed in that year’s composite.

Well done to the delegate from Charnwood CLP, who played a key role in making this happen!

Some quotes from the final composited motion, much of it including the most radical parts from the text we promoted, are below. For the full motion, see the document here (pp13-14). For all the motions submitted on this issue, which include good formulations to fight for in the future, see here (p101 on).

If the motion passes, Labour policy will now say:
“repeal the TU Act and anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s and 90s” (2017)
“legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action” (2015)
It will also refer to the need for unions to be “freed from legal shackles” and for workers to have an “effective right to strike” (2017).

We must fight to make sure the party puts all this into practice.

From Composite 4: Workers’ rights

“Notes: on 4th September, the first ever McDonalds strike in Britain, in Cambridge and Crayford: previously un-unionised workers organising into a union demanding £10ph, with guaranteed secure hours and union recognition… A victory at McDonalds for BFAWU members would be a victory for the whole trade union movement…

“The ongoing, year-long struggle by Picturehouse cinema workers (part of Cineworld) to win the Living Wage, decent maternity and sick pay, and union recognition.

“Conference opposes the cynical practice of bogus self-employment which denies workers employment rights including the minimum wage, holidays and sick pay and enables companies to avoid paying their fair share of tax. Proper, proactive enforcement of all employment rights, through higher prioritisation and increased Government funding, is needed to stop companies ignoring their statutory obligations and protect workers…

“Conference recognises the world of work is a key political issue and calls on Labour and affiliated unions to develop a joint campaign against insecure work, promoting trade unions and the action Labour will take, and encourage CLPs and MPs to support local action by workers.

“Our manifesto rightly said: the most effective way to maintain good rights at work is collectively through a union. Strong unions, freed from legal shackles and bolstered by positive legal rights, will be key to tackling poverty, insecurity and inequality, transforming society and creating an economy that works for the many, not the few. For unions to be effective, workers need an effective right to strike.

“Conference welcomes the vision Labour offered to workers in the General Election and will build on this including commitments to:
• improve enforcement of the National Minimum Wage…
• pursue policies for £10ph living wage and scrapping zero hours contracts…
• introduce a statutory right to contracts that reflect the hours a person normally works…
• support trade unions taking action against insecure work
• repeal the TU Act and anti-union laws introduced in the 1980s and 90s
• introduce a strong legal charter of workers’ rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining
• use devolution and local government to demonstrate Labour’s commitment and determination to improving job security
• promote trade union rights, access to workplaces and collective bargaining”

Let us know what you think? Write a reply?


  1. Motion on workers’ rights passed (unanimously) at 2015 conference


    Composite 3 – Employment Rights

    Conference unreservedly condemns the Trade Union Bill which had its Second Reading on Monday 14th September and regards it as yet another attack on the employment rights of millions of people in the UK.

    Conference acknowledges that the Bill follows a series of measures to erode employment and trade union rights in the last Parliament between 2010 and 2015 such as the Transparency of Lobbying (or Gagging Act) and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act which has undermined workers’ access to justice. As an ideologically driven attack on trade union rights and freedoms, the Bill does nothing positive for workers but instead tips the scales considerably in favour of unscrupulous employers.

    Conference notes that on 6 August it was announced that the legislation will attack public sector unions’ ability to organise by compulsorily ending check-off arrangements. Conference also believes that these measures are harmful to public sector employers, by cutting off an important revenue stream and making it more difficult for them to engage constructively with unions.

    It also attacks unions’ right to fund a working-class political voice, including the vital link between unions and our party.

    The proposals will:
    • allow agency labour to be used to break a strike
    • introduce very high thresholds for industrial action ballots
    • severely restrict the right to picket and peacefully protest
    • render strikes ineffective through longer notice periods
    • significantly reduce union facility time and withdraw check off of union dues in the public sector
    • give the Certification Officer investigatory powers into trade unions without specific reason
    • require union members to “contract in” to their union’s Political Fund every 5 years significantly reducing the ability of unions to engage in political activity.

    Conference believes that:
    • it is almost without precedent that a government should seek to force through legislation that will undermine funding of the main opposition party.
    • this is a partisan and brazenly political attack. David Cameron is targeting union and Labour funding which is fair, clean and democratic, while doing nothing about spending limits nor addressing the fact that Tories are financed by a small pool of mega-rich donors.
    • workers’ right, including the right to strike, are essential to the labour movement’s ability to stand up for workers’ interests, and democracy.
    • the good work undertaken by the Work and Prosperity Commission in their review of working life before the election offers a useful framework for the Labour Party to develop a policy which strengthens the employment rights of workers in the UK.
    • the UK has some of the lowest employment rights protections in the OECD and regrets that our legislation does not comply with ILO core conventions.
    • stronger employment and trade union rights increase productivity, reduce inequality and help create a more balanced economy and urges the Labour Party to commit to ensuring they are at the heart of a progressive Labour economic policy.

    Conference calls on:
    • all sections of the Labour Party to actively oppose the passage of the Bill, together with any associated secondary legislation, through Parliament.
    • the Labour Party to use this opportunity to campaign for the introduction of secure workplace balloting to be used in all industrial action/strike ballots and for statutory ballots relating to internal trade union democracy.
    • Labour to commit to repeal the Bill and all associated legislation/regulation when Labour returns to Government and to introduce a comprehensive package of employment rights compliant with ILO core conventions and European human rights obligations, along with the levelling up of workers’ rights across the EU; legislate for strong rights to unionise, win recognition and collective bargaining, strike, picket and take solidarity action.

    The Party should unambiguously promote trade union membership and workers’ rights and to highlight the positive role played by trade unions in the UK in 2015.

    Mover: Unite
    Seconder: Derbyshire Dales CLP

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