Mick on Queen's speech

27 May 2015

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has roundly condemned the Conservative government’s attack on trade union rights in today’s Queen’s speech.

In a two pronged attack, the Tories plan to introduce legislation to make it even harder for workers to take legal industrial action and attack union funding for campaign work.

For legal strike action to take place, unions will have to have a turnout of over 50% and 40% of those entitled to vote must vote in favour of action. This means an abstention is assumed to be a vote against action. Only Bulgaria and Romania have higher thresholds.

Mick said: “It is shameful, and scandalous, that a Tory government is trying to set a hurdle that they think we won’t be able to clear for industrial action. They demand 40% of all those entitled to vote must votefor action. Yet only 24.4% of those entitled to vote at the general election voted for them! If this new hurdle is good enough for the unions, surely it should be good enough for Members of Parliament, political parties, and governments,too? Or is it one rule for them and another for the rest of us?”

As well as attacking the right of workers’ to withdraw their labour, the Tories have also launched an attack on union finances. They have outlined proposals which mean members would have to opt-in to the political fund, rather than opt-out. This fund is not just about funding the Labour Party. The political fund is a requirement for unions who want to undertake a whole range of campaign work for their members. It is often the only money unions can use to campaign on areas such as NHS reforms, health and safety or the structure of our railways.

Mick added, “These two proposals go even further than Thatcher dared in attacking the right of working people to organise. The Tories are trying to smash the trade unions because they know we are the only thing that stands between them, and a return to Victorian working conditions. It makes Cameron’s idea that the Tories are the worker’s party even more laughable than it was in the first place.

“It is the right of every worker to withdraw his or her labour. We are not slaves and this is not a slave state. No man or woman should be forced to work by the threats of a bad employer or a bad government.”

Mick added: “We know where the Tories are coming from. Unions in the UK are some of the most regulated organisations in the western world. It’s becoming clear that this is another attempt to gag trade unions and stop them from functioning.”

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