The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent and became law on Wednesday 4 May.
The final law that was passed included amendments including: an independent review of electronic balloting with a view to implementing it shortly after its conclusion; the opt-in to political funds will now only apply to new members and will have a 12 month delay on starting; plans were dropped for the compulsory ending of check-off in public services; dropping of requirement to provide detailed picketing information and social media campaigning two weeks in advance; strike mandates will now last 6 months, or nine months with employer agreement rather than the originally proposed four months; a guarantee of no ministerial influence on the Certification officer.
However the law still includes: strike ballot thresholds of 50% turnout and a 40% yes vote from all those eligible to vote in important public services; a requirement to identify picket leaders at each picket line with picket violations becoming a criminal offence; an increase in strike notice to 14 days; the ability for employers to cap facility time; and increased role and powers for the Certification officer and unions having to pay a levy for their running costs.
The law will not be enacted straight away, but it is expected that all of its components will be enacted by the end of October this year. This is a serious defeat for the whole labour movement, and one which the labour movement has failed to put up a significant fight against. Many trade union activists will have been left unaware that the bill has now become law, many unions have nothing on their front pages about the passing of such a deliberate attack. Unison's front page carries an article entitled The Trade Union Bill how we campaigned for key changes. Clearly what is important for them is face saving rather than a serious discussion about how the workers movement is going to fight the laws that will hamper it from staging any fight on national pay, conditions, cuts or from running effective local disputes with picketing.
It is essential that discussion is had on how to break the law, and how to defend those that do. Unions will ballots coming up soon should not only mobilise to beat the thresholds but must commit to calling strikes if members are clearly up for it, even if they do not meet the thresholds.