Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Death knell to the Labour Party?

British unions lost a lot of public sympathy and political power in their conflicts with Margaret Thatcher. This summer they suffered from a Scottish rebellion, and the Tories have been freed from a restrictive coalition.

So, PM Cameron now seeks to go Thatcher one better.

Trade Union Bill: Ministers deny 'attack on workers' rights'
Ministers have defended plans to tighten the rules on strike ballots after unions said they would make legal strikes "almost impossible".

Under current rules all that is needed for a strike is a simple majority of those that take part in a ballot.
But the Trade Union Bill would impose a minimum 50% turnout - and public sector strikes would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote…

David Cameron and Harriet Harman clashed over the issue at Prime Minister's Questions, with the Labour leader accusing the government of "attacking the right of working people to have a say on their pay and conditions".

But the prime minister said Labour's opposition showed it was "utterly in hoc" to the trade unions. The public, he argued, were behind Conservative efforts to ensure strikes were only called as "a last resort" and "to sort this out for working families"…

The legislation could also cut the amount of money unions have to mount campaigns - or donate to parties such as Labour - with members actively having to "opt in" to pay the so-called political levy, which is currently automatic unless members opt-out…

These are some of the most sweeping and radical union reforms since the 1980s. The unions fear it will make effective industrial action pretty much impossible - and say it's unnecessary as the level of strikes is almost at its lowest ever.

But ministers argue that in the wake of strikes on London Underground, for example, where people have been severely inconvenienced, they need to find a fresh balance and look again at the power of the trade unions…

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