It was with absolute despair that I witnessed the Tory assault on trade unions being sanctioned by parliament as the Trade Union Bill completed its second reading on Monday. Trade unions have been long seen by the Tories as a cash cow for Labour and the idea of predominately public sector workers bankrolling the opposition has always stuck in the Tories craw.
This isn't about reform in order to streamline the unions, make them more efficient and ensure they are up to the challenge of representing their members in an ever changing world, this is about punishing unions for the disruption caused by civil action, strikes and union funded legal campaigns against government policy.
First we seen the gagging bill which has many charities on the back foot and too scared to challenge the Tories on their appalling welfare reform agenda and of course the deepening of the punishing and inhumane cuts for society's most vulnerable. These legislative measures are not harsh and wide ranging by mistake, they have been crafted to cover many eventualities and give the Tories a range of methods by which to control the work of charities and the messages they may be sending out which relate to Tory policy and the breadth of its impact.
The Trade Union Bill is sledgehammer legislation which focuses on weakening the unions, reducing the power of the members to withdraw their labour, imposing a number of additional criteria for strikes and of course attempting to fracture the link between union membership and funding to the Labour Party. While the Bill proceeded with a majority of 33, Tory MP David Davis voted for the Bill but highlighted that unless the Government amend the Bill and remove some more contentious sections, he will vote against it when it comes back to the Commons.
To see how your MP voted visit the Bill's page on the Public Whip website.
As I mentioned at the news of the defeat, I believe these rights are not ours to bargain with, we are but custodians for future generations and if we allow the latest Tory attack on freedoms to proceed then we are doing our people of tomorrow a great disservice.
The ability to withdraw ones labour is fundamental and the government should not use legislation to further stress the employer employee relationship in order to make political points and attempt to get one over on Labour. The UK already has amongst the most strict and onerous strike laws in Europe and while the government aims to install barriers to collective employee action, they risk a considerable backlash with some unions officials claiming they will oppose the measures and call for widespread civil disobedience.
While I am a fan of examining political party funding, this has to be across all parties and all donor streams. It cannot be right that two rich bankers can donate £2 million to the Tories while 100,000 nurses are prevented from donating £20 each to Labour.
We shouldn't put up with something just because 'That's the way it has always been'; we need to design a system, which installs integrity, transparency and fairness at its core. We need a system of political funding which allows us follow the money easily in order to see who is influencing our government and a system where party donors are not thrown an ermine housecoat and parked in the House of Lords.
It is not too late... The Bill will now go to Committee stage and a number of amendments can be proposed by MP's before the Bill is read a third time and passes to the Lords. Write to your MP and tell them your thoughts on the Trade Union Bill and share your concerns of its wider implications