Construction union UCATT has hit out at government proposals to tighten restrictions on industrial action, saying they are akin to “state-sponsored blacklisting”.
Ucatt national secretary Brian Rye told Construction News that the Trade Union Bill, which is being debated in parliament this afternoon, was an attack on workers’ civil liberties and would encourage a legalised form of blacklisting.
Mr Rye said: “There is a part of the legislation that refers to the picketing supervisors.
“This new legislation would mean we would have to give names of those supervising the strike to the employer and the police.
“This is a form of state-sponsored blacklisting, it is just formalising and legalising all of the issues we have been challenging for the last few years.”
Mr Rye’s criticism came before MPs voted in favour of the bill by 317 votes to 284.
It will now be considered by a parliamentary committee, starting next month.
The proposed bill would impose tighter controls on strike action by requiring 50 per cent of those balloted to vote to make industrial action legal and by making it compulsorary for strikers to give their names to police ahead of action.
Mr Rye said that these new laws were “overkill” and a “vindictive attack” on trade unions and workers.
Mr Rye said: “The legislation will effectively prevent workers from defending their working conditions and livelihood.
“Any challenges to their jobs, their livelihood, their wages, their ability to defend these is taken away.”
Research by Construction News’ sister title Local Government Chronicle found that the proposed voting thresholds would have prevented all national local government strikes since the turn of the century.
The trade union bill comes as the number of unionised workers in the construction industry continues to fall.
In July, Construction News reported that only 13.8 per cent of the construction members were union members, down from 30.3 per cent in 1995.
Business secretary Sajid Javid said today: “This is a one-nation government acting in the interests of the whole country and these reforms will stop the endless threat of strike action hanging over hardworking people.
“Trade unions play an important role and deserve our respect. But when working people’s lives are being disrupted by strike action, it is only fair that this happens as a result of a contemporary mandate that is supported by the majority of union members.”
Mr Rye said that the bill was a deliberate attack to diminish the power of trade unions.
Mr Rye said: “In the private sector, strike action is incredibly rare. We are challenging the justification for this legislation and that is why we are right to challenge it because where is the evidence that it is needed?”
He added that the proposals would put in jeopardy many of the good relationships and agreements that were in place between workers and employers.