The Trade Union Bill is an assault that the current government are making on workers’ rights, civil liberties and democracy, and make clear to see that the Conservative ruse of being ‘the party of the working people’ is a complete fallacy.
During the debate I voiced the concerns stating that the Bill breached the European Convention on Human Rights and would be detrimental to future economic growth. Salford was pivotal in the creation of the trade union movement, with Salford and Manchester trades councils founding the TUC in 1868. I can assure residents that I will continue to lobby the government to think again with regards to this attack on the trade union movement and oppose the Bill as it progresses through the legislative process.
As well as myself, 284 other MPs also voted against the Bill but unfortunately it was supported by 317 and so the Bill will continue to committee stage. I can assure you that I will continue to lobby the government to think again with regards to this attack on the trade union movement and oppose the Bill as it progresses through the legislative process.
Below is the speech I delivered to Parliament regarding the bill:
I declare an interest in this debate as a proud member of my trade union Unite.
The freedom to speak out against injustice and to campaign for economic equality and the rights and freedoms of workers, is underpinned by the European convention on human rights—rights that were bitterly fought for by the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors. The Government claim that they are forced to amend those rights, and we are led to believe that that is because the number of strikes called in recent years is a threat to our economic wellbeing. The total number of days lost in the 12 months preceding April 2015 was 704,000, but before the House becomes hysterical about that, it is important to note that historically that figure was in the millions. In fact, we are experiencing an all-time low for strike action, and it is at its lowest level since before 1990. The simple truth is that workers do not take the decision to strike lightly, and they never have.
I stress that such rights are not simply to improve workers’ living standards, but to enable the functioning of the economy as a whole. If wages continue to fall in real terms that implies a shrinking of the market. That inhibits profit and growth, and results in a vast reduction in the amounts recoverable in taxes by the Treasury. Indeed, proponents of the competitive market—including those on the Government Benches—would do well to understand that intrinsic to its very existence is not just the supply and demand of labour, but the freedom of labour to move and organise. Members who are fans of the free market mantras of Milton Friedman and co. will no doubt notice a real contradiction in terms. On the one hand, the Government advocate freedom and deregulation of company activity in their promotion of free market ideologies, but when it comes to the activity of workers it is a completely different story.
It is clear that the arguments in favour of this Bill do not stack up. This Bill is a clear breach of the European convention and poses a real and present danger to our economic viability as a nation. I call on Members to reject this Bill today. Failure to do so will open an economic and democratic Pandora’s box that unleashes something so pernicious that we will not be able to close the lid again.