Articles

Trade Union Acts & what happens to them

In Uncategorized on March 3, 2017 by kmflett

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The latest Tory anti-union Act became law on March 1st.

The official Government view of it is here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/trade-union-act-measures-come-into-force-to-protect-people-from-undemocratic-industrial-action

The wording is interesting starting with a reference to ‘undemocratic strike action’. I well remember the time when Tory supporters were not only active in trade unions but were sometimes reps (a few still are, but many fewer than 40 years ago). Nowadays the majority Tory thought seems to be that unions are a bad thing and hence strike action is ‘undemocratic’. That is not great for democracy itself and particularly for any idea of industrial democracy.

It is interesting to look very briefly at what happens to Trade Union Acts.

The 1927 Trades Disputes Act passed in the wake of the General Strike, banned secondary action and mass pickets and made union members opt in (as opposed to opt out) of the political levy. It was repealed on 22nd May 1946 by the Attlee Labour Government.

The 1971 Industrial Relations Act, which was ‘sort of’ related to the earlier Donovan Commission on unions limited the right to strike, made trade unions register to operate legally and set up a National Industrial Relations Court. It was repealed by the 1974 Labour Government and replaced with the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act.

Under the Thatcher Governments form 1979 a number of Trade Union Acts were passed. These were not repealed by the Labour Governments from 1997 but instead a new Employment Relations Act was passed in 1999 which addressed the right of unions to recognition by an employer and outlined a series of rights for union members, including a ban on blacklisting.

The historical point is obviously that while trade union laws can be reduced to ineffectiveness by active opposition to them (the Tory union laws post 1979 were not much used) they are only repealed when a Labour Government is in office, Notably however that didn’t happen after 1997 but an alternative approach of passing additional legislation was taken. It might be argued that while this had an impact, repeal might have been the better option..

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