Dawn speak on the Trade Union Bill 14 September 2015

Dawn speak on the Trade Union Bill 14 September 2015

Dawn Butler:

On that point, the Bakers Union is campaigning for fair rights for fast food workers, and is trying to increase pay in America from $7 to $15 and in the UK to £10. Does the hon. Gentleman think that this measure is trying to restrict that kind of activity?

Chris Stephens- SNP:

That is exactly what it is designed to do. This attack is to weaken the rights of trade union members. When it comes to political funds, it should be up to the trade union members to decide. If members have issues about who trade unions are funding, it is up to them to organise themselves and to take up the matter with their trade unions—just as I always do. When my union funds a campaign that I might not necessarily support, I am told, quite rightly, that it should be up to us to organise.

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Dawn Butler:

May I declare that I am a proud trade unionist and was a full-time trade union official for more than 10 years? Does my hon. Friend agree that the

Bill’s real agenda is to stop public sector workers speaking out against this Government’s attacks on their pay and conditions?

Angela Eagle - Shadow Leader of the House of Commons:

It is impossible not to agree with my hon. Friend, and it saddens me beyond words that we are here today dealing with the most significant sustained and partisan attack on 6 million trade union members and their workplace organisations that we have seen in this country in the past 30 years. With the number of days lost to strike action down 90% in the past 20 years, there is no need whatsoever to employ the law in this draconian way.

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Dawn Butler:

The Secretary of State talks about women on low pay. Many of these women and men do not have bank accounts, yet he is still trying to get rid of check-off, which makes it easier for people to join trade unions. How is that helping people to defend their own rights?

Sajid Javid - Secretary of State for Innovation, Business and Skills:

There is absolutely no relationship between check-off and bank accounts. Anyone who is able to take advantage of check-off must have a bank account in order to receive their salary in the first place.

I also want to talk about the impact on taxpayers, who have to fund the salaries of public servants, only for those public servants to spend their time on trade union business. Do taxpayers not have a right at least to know what their taxes are being spent on? These are the people who are not represented in current trade union legislation, and by increasing transparency, fairness and democracy, they are the people that this Bill will protect. [Interruption.]

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Dawn Butler:

The Secretary of State is being very generous with his time. On the point of businesses being open and transparent, should 40% of shareholders have to agree before a business can donate to a political party?

Sajid Javid - Secretary of State for Innovation, Business and Skills:

The hon. Lady will know that businesses or individuals have to declare it when they make a donation. It has to be transparent. All businesses have to declare their donations and will often have to get the permission of their shareholders. In public companies, those shareholders will receive a vote. These changes are entirely consistent with that. We are saying that if someone is a union member, they should know that some of their money is going towards political purposes. It should be open and transparent. That is not the case in England, Scotland and Wales. It is the case in Northern Ireland. If it works in Northern Ireland, it can work in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Turning to check-off, as the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General has announced, a proposed amendment to the Bill will seek to end the practice by which union subscriptions are processed through payroll in public sector organisations. The so-called check-off system was created in a time before direct debits existed and serves no purpose in the modern workplace. It has already been abolished across Whitehall. The amendment will extend this modernising step to the rest of the taxpayer-funded workforce.

I respect Britain’s working men and women. I believe that they are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves whether they wish to support their union’s political activity and they are perfectly capable of paying their union subscriptions themselves. To suggest otherwise is to say that Britain’s union members are too lazy to set up a direct debit or too stupid to make a decision about politics. That is patronising in the extreme.

In the past few weeks, the Labour party has shown that it is possible actively to recruit hundreds of thousands of members to a support a cause and that it is possible to get hard-working men and women to hand over their hard-earned money to back an idea that they believe in. Not one of Labour’s new members signed up by mistake because they failed to tick a box. Not one of the registered supporters was required to pay their £3 through their employer’s payroll. Every new recruit to the Labour party made an active decision to participate. If the party born of the unions can achieve that, surely the unions themselves can do the same?

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