Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Franco would be proud

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Cameron’s Conservative government is pursuing a wide-ranging agenda designed to curb democratic rights, suppress civil liberties, and silence the voices of ordinary working people.

This government wants to scrap the Human Rights Act, has introduced fees denying women the chance to sue for equal pay in tribunals, has slashed legal aid, has disenfranchised millions of voters through ill-thought out changes to electoral registration and has stifled the ability of charities to campaign and challenge government policy.

In addition, it is now attempting to limit the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to prevent people from gaining access to information about policies and performance which should be in the public domain. I know from personal experience just how hard it can be to get basic straightforward information out of this government’s Ministers. For example, Eric Pickles persistently refused to answer questions about the number of households receiving a weekly all-purpose refuse collection service because he didn’t want to admit he’d wasted £250 million.

Now Cameron has launched an attack on the basic rights of 6 million members of trade unions. They are workers in a wide range of industries and services – from engineers to shop assistants, teachers to bakers, office workers to nurses.

The Trade Union Bill presents a threat to activity and campaigning by trade unions – which is entirely unrelated to party politics. Things that will be stopped or hampered include Usdaw’s ‘Freedom From Fear’ Campaign which seeks to prevent violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers, and the ‘Hope Not Hate’ campaign which works to build community cohesiveness, and efforts at increasing electoral registration. 

This Bill risks damaging industrial relations and the proposals will undermine constructive employment relations. It’s likely to result in more, not less, industrial action as the provisions risk extending disputes and making it more difficult to reach settlements.

When it gets to the point that prominent right-wing Conservative MP David Davis calls some of the Bill’s measures “like something out of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain”, you know that the government should think again.

If you want to read more about what the government is proposing and some informed comment about the background to and detail of the Trade Union Bill, I suggest:

House of Commons’ Library Briefing
You can read a summary or download a detailed report about the Bill’s provisions at

Stop the union-bashing
An essay by Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow

Comprehensive briefing by the TUC and General Secretary Frances O’Grady