John McDonnell MP presented his Private Members' Bill to parliament on 30 June. If adopted, it would significantly improve unions' ability to defend their members and would be the first step towards the full restoration of trade union rights.
After coming first in the Private Members' Ballot, McDonnell is sponsoring the "Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill" to tackle the increasing practice by employers of using minor technical errors in the balloting process - which have no material effect on the outcome - to take unions to court in order to prevent them from taking industrial action. Network Rail workers have already fallen foul of this practice when the strike was injuncted.
McDonnell said, 'We have seen in the current BA Cabin Crew dispute and many other recent disputes, employers have been able to exploit loopholes in the existing law by using minor technical errors in a trade union ballot to thwart trade unionists from taking strike action. This resort to the courts by some ruthless employers is bringing current employment law into disrepute and undermining industrial relations in this country. This cannot be right and in the interests of good industrial relations needs to be addressed.’
The ConDem Government is planning to further tighten the anti-union laws, and has called in Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson to advise them on how to do it. Johnson is fond of dreaming up measures to make it harder for London Underground workers to exercise our democratic right to strike, and of demonising us when we have the temerity to do so.
The CBI has already asked the government to introduce a new requirement for a Yes vote by 40% of those entitled to vote - a rule under which the government would not be the government, and BoJo would not be Mayor of London!
To defend our rights, we need to defend our right to strike for our rights. Union leaders regularly denounce the anti-union laws, some more passionately than others. But we need more than denunciation: we need mass mobilisation for trade union rights, and to build up the strength that will enable us to defy them, as the oil refinery workers did a couple of years ago.