John McDonnell launches Bill to restore the right to strike

Press release from John McDonnell MP ...John McDonnell, supported by the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group, presents his Private Members' Bill to parliament today which if adopted 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 and in consultation with the trade union movement and leading trade union lawyers, John McDonnell MP 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.

Commenting on the Bill, John McDonnell MP 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."

Bob Crow, General Secretary of the Rail and Maritime Workers Union (RMT), said:

"There is no doubt that this government of millionaire public schoolboys will encourage the use of the courts to try and stop workers from fighting back against the attacks that are being lined up by the ConDem administration.

"RMT has been hauled through the courts on the most spurious of grounds by employers trying to sabotage democratic votes by our members whose only crime has been to fight for their jobs and safe working conditions. We have seen the arsenal of legal measures ranged up against us by the employers increase in recent months as the bosses' lawyers have homed in on the most ludicrous of technicalities to try and outlaw the right to strike by the back door.

"John McDonnell is proving himself once again to be the champion of the working classes in dragging this assault on democracy and human rights out of the Courts and into the daylight through his Private Members Bill."

Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association (POA), said:

"The POA support the Private Members Bill entitled Lawful Industrial Action as employers are using the anti trade union legislation to stop legitimate industrial action from taking place, by getting the Courts to rule on minor technical errors. You only have to look at the disgraceful cases taken against Unite and RMT Unions. This is a small step in the right direction but the anti trade union legislation needs to go to protect all workers."

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS, said:

"PCS backs John McDonnell's Bill which would repeal the law that outrageously allows employers to use the courts to block the democratic will of trade unionists to take action. If Parliamentary elections had to satisfy such stringent regulations, we would have no MPs and 650 court cases pending.

"This piece of legislation would improve industrial relations by encouraging employers to seek dialogue, rather than legal wrangling over minutiae, to settle disputes."

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said:

"The Fire Brigades Union strongly welcomes this Bill and urges everyone to get behind it. The amount of hurdles that unions have to jump in order to take lawful industrial action is nothing short of a scandal, and is an infringement of workers' basic democratic right to withdraw their labour."

Joe Marino, General Secretary of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), said:

"Recent legal action has shown that the law in relation to industrial action ballots is an ass. Britain already has the harshest industrial relations legislation in the civilized world and recent comments from the CBI show that even this is not enough for some employers. The Private Members Bill from John McDonnell MP will simply eradicate some of the most objectionable elements of this legislation and stop frivolous legal cases by employers who would be better served seeking negotiation rather than costly legal remedies."

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary of the NUJ, said:

"The NUJ supports the Lawful Industrial Action Private Members' Bill because we suffer from some of the worst trade union laws in Europe. Employers should not be allowed to use the courts as a way to clamp down on democratic votes in the workplace. The heavily one-sided nature of the law does not respect basic civic rights and freedoms and therefore needs to change."


* John McDonnell MP is sponsoring the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill to amend section 232B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (c. 52) to extend the circumstances in which, by virtue of that section, industrial action is not to be treated as excluded from the protection of section 219 of that Act.

The Bill has been co-signed by Kate Hoey MP, Tony Lloyd MP, Dave Anderson MP, Michael Connarty MP, Austin Mitchell MP, Frank Doran MP, Kelvin Hopkins MP, Jim Sheridan MP, David Crausby MP, Ian Lavery MP and John Cryer MP.

Second Reading of the Bill will be 22nd October 2010. There will be a mass rally and lobby of parliament on the 13th October 2010.

* The Trade Union Co-ordinating Group (TUCG), which was launched in Parliament earlier this year, brings together eight national unions (BFAWU, FBU, NAPO, NUJ, PCS, POA, RMT and URTU), representing over half a million workers, with the objective of co-ordinating campaigning activities on key issues facing their members and giving the unions a new and stronger representative voice in Parliament and beyond.

* The TUCG's Annual Tolpuddle Commemorative Event 'Restoring the Right to Strike' 7pm, Monday 19th July 2010, Grimond Room, will focus on John McDonnell's Private Members Bill.