Paul Uppal defeated in Tory attempt to effectively ban strikes

A Ten-minute Rule Bill in Parliament, attempting to prohibit strike action in emergency and transport service sectors unless a majority of employees in the unionised workforce has voted in favour of such action – not simply a majority of those voting-for strike action was defeated

So for example a 70% postal ballot turnout (almost unheard of) which produced a 70% vote in favour of a strike would not be enough to take legal action.

No such criteria could ever be imposed on any council or parliamentary elections, since we would never be able to elect anyone or decide anything so would be in a permanent state of anarchy or dictatorship.


The final vote was 171 against, 121 in favour

Paul Uppal Tory MP Wolverhampton SW voted for the change

Pat McFadden Labour MP Wolverhampton SE voted against

Emma Reynolds Labour MP Wolverhampton SW did not vote


From the Parliamentary debate:

Industrial Relations (Voting Procedures)26 Apr 2011  


Mr Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con):

Some will say, "Yes, but politicians are elected only by those who turn out to vote," but strike ballots and political elections are fundamentally different

[Hon. Members: "Why?"]

Strike action takes advantage of an express immunity created by an exemption to the law. Without that exemption, unions could be sued in contract and tort law for the damage that they do, just like everybody else.

Strike action based on minority support allows union bosses to corral, cajole and sometimes even bully the majority of union members into supporting strike action and losing pay, when actually they want to get on with their work and their job. Guidance issued by many unions instructs all members to support strike action regardless of whether they voted for it. Then there are the widespread reports of bullying. When British Airways sacked and suspended almost 100 workers after the 2010 strike, it stated that they were mostly for allegations of bullying or intimidation made by other colleagues.

Industrial action played its part in securing reform, from Annie Besant's match girls union striking against the use of yellow phosphorous in match-making, which caused bone cancer, to the 1889 dockers' strike in east London against the mercenary exploitation that pitted desperate workers against one another in competition for casual labour on the very harshest terms. I wonder what those heroic campaigners would have made of recent strikes over travel perks, annual bonuses and the right to retire at 50.

Despite a massive expansion of health and safety regulation, employment law and various other social protections, Britain is still episodically held hostage by a vocal minority led by militant union bosses.

What is worse still is the way in which union bosses frequently rely on a minority of members to corral and coerce the majority into strike action.

This kind of bullying is bad enough in any circumstances, but it is particularly reprehensible during strikes that cannot command a majority of support among a union's own members. Why should a militant minority coerce, intimidate and bully the silent majority? 

Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): I rise to oppose the Bill. Let me be honest: it was not just the sight of the salivating rants of Tory MPs and their Lib Dem friends that got me to my feet; it was probably this sense of déjà vu, this groundhog day. I was looking round for Lord Tebbit-I have been in the House a long time-because this proposal is cast very much in the mould of what we have seen before. 

The beginning of the speech by the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) was interesting, because he invoked some of the great industrial disputes of the past, when people fought for their basic legitimate rights and the kind of things that people are now fighting for in Egypt, Syria and wherever else. However, the instinct of the parties of Government is to crush exactly that right of people to proper demonstration against injustices imposed on them whether by employers or someone else. That is what is so sad. Once again, we have a rewind of history.

He did not mention where else our national legislation sets out such a terrifically high threshold. Not even the advocates of AV propose such a high threshold. The bizarre thing in all this is that any election with a turnout of 70% where 70% of those voting supported a proposition would fail the test for legitimacy under the hon. Gentleman's Bill. A turnout of 70% with 70% in favour would be seen as an overwhelming victory for the proponents of a particular course of action, whether a politician standing for elected office or anyone else.

It is interesting that in proposing the Bill, the hon. Gentleman failed to mention the fact that in many cases bad employers are involved. Bad employers have consequences for the work force. They lead to increases in, for example, absenteeism, sickness and, of course, the capacity of the work force to think about taking industrial action

get out a little more and to talk to people who work and who are not bullied by trade union bosses but who cast their vote in secret.  it is a secret [postal] ballot in which individual members cast their own votes.

The reality is that when we restrict the capacity for people to register this kind of protest, we do not improve industrial relations. There might be short-term gains, but in the end, such action merely entrenches the disaffection of those employees who feel that they have been badly treated and increases the arrogance of the bad employers.  That is exactly what we had in the 1980s.

Question put : Noes 171  Ayes 121

Paul Uppal voted for the change

Pat McFadden voted against

Emma Reynolds did not vote. 


See the full debatehere… where Tony Lloyd MP, Chair of the Trade Union Group, opposed the Bill.

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