THE BLOG
10/09/2015 12:13 BST | Updated 10/09/2016 06:12 BST

The Government's Trade Union Clampdown Is Unfair and Unnecessary

Industrial relations work best when there is constructive, respectful dialogue between both sides in the common interest and a new parliament was an opportunity to reset relations and begin new discussions. Instead we got this senseless legislation that is built on soundbites, stereotypes and straw men.

Last year you were probably more likely to see the Loch Ness Monster than a striking public sector worker.

Working days lost to industrial action are now roughly a tenth of what they were in the 1980s, and even if there were trade unionists just itching to walk out, they would already face some of the most stringent and complex balloting rules in the world.

In any case, that desire to down tools doesn't really exist - my union, for example, has balloted to strike as many times as England have won the world cup.

The government is therefore legislating for a problem that doesn't really exist with its Trade Union Bill.

This is the Bill it introduced just before the summer recess that seeks to restrict the right to strike by applying thresholds relating to turnout and result.

The government claims this is necessary to stop out-of-control unions bringing public services to a halt based on a dubious mandate and the legislation was launched amid industrial action on the London Underground.

That strike, you may not have heard ministers mention, followed a ballot that met the proposed thresholds.

But keeping public services running isn't really the aim here; it's to confect a row with trade unions at a politically opportune time.

So let's cut to the chase: this is petty, vindictive legislation and an undignified way to govern.

It's is also deliberately provocative.

Take some of the other measures announced in the Bill, but covered less-widely than strike thresholds.

Unions would be required to report to the authorities what their plans were for promoting the strike on Facebook and Twitter.

They would need to specify whether they will be using 'loudspeakers, props, banners etc'.

The government is also considering whether to direct local authorities to issue ASBOs to union members participating in pickets.

These measures are almost laughably absurd, but failing to comply with them could incur big financial penalties for the unions involved.

So unions looking to negotiate a fair deal for their members could instead face fines of thousands of pounds if they don't provide a hashtag. It's #madness.

And look at the timetable proposed by the government - the second reading of the Bill will take place at the same time as unions meet in Brighton for their annual congress.

The intention is clear: fill the airwaves with 'union dinosaurs' talking about strikes to demonstrate why legislation is needed to stop these monsters bringing Britain to its knees.

Is this really how it should be?

Government should be about vision, ambition and compassion.

It should be about transforming lives, communities and the nation.

It shouldn't be about settling old scores.

Industrial relations work best when there is constructive, respectful dialogue between both sides in the common interest and a new parliament was an opportunity to reset relations and begin new discussions.

Instead we got this senseless legislation that is built on soundbites, stereotypes and straw men.

Striking is, has been, and always will be a last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.

But, as it has been for generations, it must also always be an option open to unions to make negotiations with employers something resembling a level playing field.

This legislation is designed to further tilt the balance of power towards employers and away from workers, making it ever harder to strike a fair deal during difficult times.

Does that sound fair to you?