The Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill was debated on 22 October 2010 but ran out of time. It is on the Order Paper to resume its Second Reading debate on 17th June 2011 though won't get debated.
Campaign Against Anti-Trade Union laws – a Parliamentary outrage:
Despite months of vigorous campaigning, the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill fell in the Commons in October, following dirty parliamentary tactics employed by the Tories and a lack of support from Labour MPs.
The method of talking-out a Bill to ensure there is no time for a genuine debate was slammed by John Hendy QC, and described as a "shame and disgrace" by John McDonnell MP who introduced it to the Commons. The process which denied the democratic debate of the Bill ensured the voice of workers' was once again silenced by the House.
The real crime on the day was not the filibustering techniques of the predictable Tory actors, but the failure of the Labour Party leadership to support this mild, modest and moderate Bill. Of course they had 13 years recent practice of not opposing the anti-union laws whilst in power.
Through the United Campaign alone, over 3000 supporters lobbied their MPs asking that they attend the House of Commons to support the Bill on the 22 October. We wrote to all local MPs, got no reply and none even bothered to go to work that day. 100 MPs were required to vote for the Bill in the Commons to enable it to get through its Second Reading Stage. Although MPs are often in their constituencies on Fridays, it is an utter scandal that only 87 MPs felt the right to a democratic vote was important enough for them to stay behind in Westminster. Even two Tory MPs were there in support of the Bill, further shaming Labour.
An LRC activist said "If they cannot be motivated by the injustices which the law visits on workers defending their livelihood, their jobs, or the services they provide, how can they be expected to support the struggles of the working class against the programme of the coalition government."
Although the Bill has been relisted for a Second Reading on the 17 June 2010, there will be no time for it to be debated as it is the last on the list.
- See which MPs voted for the Bill: http://www.l-r-c.org.uk/files/LIABill_Vote.xls
- Read the debate in full: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm101022/debtext/101022-0001.htm
- Article – Lawful Industrial Action Bill falls: Labour leaders show their contempt for the right of workers to strike – Martin Wicks: http://l-r-c.org.uk/blog/post/labour-leadership-shows-contempt-for-workers-right-to-strike/
- Article – 'Tories play dirty to derail union bill' – Roger Bagley, Morning Star: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/96717
Join Us Affiliation Year 2010-11 The United Campaign relies on financial contributions from unions, branches, trades councils and individuals to continue our work in fighting against further restrictions on trade union rights. Please ask your branch or trades council to affiliate to the Campaign, using the draft motion on our website or consider becoming an individual supporter.
With your help we can make sure we continue to stand up for the rights of ordinary working people.
Visit the website to find out more and to download a branch motion and an affiliation form: http://www.unitedcampaign.org.uk/sitebody/getinvolved/join.html
Summary of the Bill
The Bill proposes reducing regulatory burdens on trade unions in relation to the balloting and notice requirements for lawful industrial action.
It would extend the provision for small accidental errors contained in section 232B of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The burden of proof in applications by an employer to restrain strike action by injunction would be changed, so that the employer would have to show that the union has failed to achieve 'substantial compliance' with the ballot and notice requirements.
On Friday 22nd October 2010, Labour MP John McDonnell brought his Private Member’s Bill to the floor of the House of Commons for debate.
His Bill, The Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill, would have made small alterations to current legislation such as the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The measures contained in the Bill, although modest, would have had a significant impact on restoring the basic civil liberties of workers in Britain and shaped a more equitable environment for industrial relations in this country between workers and employers.
The current code of practice for industrial ballots was developed under Conservative administrations and set in law in 1990. It has had minor amendments since then, so that today the statutory code obliges the trade union to adhere to stringent regulations when conducting ballots. The failure to meet these requirements, no matter how minor the infringement, can mean that any action voted upon by members may be deemed invalid in court. The union must provide the exact number of trade union members balloted, correct information on their workplaces and category of work. Members’ addresses, jobs and workplaces must be up to date. As any large organisation will know, it is simply impossible to hold up-to-date information such as this all of the time.
Therefore John McDonnell’s Bill sought to put an end to the instances where the breaching of minor technicalities could deny workers the right to withdraw their labour even when an overwhelming majority of the workforce had voted for action.
Tory MPs used delaying tactics to deny the measure a second reading in the House of Commons. Although only a handful of Tory MPs attended the debate, those who did were speaking at length in order to delay the Bill as far as possible. When the House divided the Bill required 100 MPs to ensure that it reached its next stage in the legislative process. Although 89 MPs, predominantly Labour, voted in support of the Bill, it was not enough to allow it to pass.
Labour MPs who voted for the Bill on 22-10-10:
Diane Abbott; Heidi Alexander; Kevin Barron; Luciana Berger; Tom Blenkinsop; David Blunkett; Lyn Brown; Nick Brown; Ronnie Campbell; Katy Clark; Michael Connarty; David Crausby; Stella Creasy; Jon Cruddas; John Cryer; Jim Dobbin; Frank Doran; Jim Dowd; Jack Dromey; Michael Dugher; Julie Elliot; Paul Farrely; Jim Fitzpatrick; Robert Flello; Paul Flynn; Yvonne Fovargue; Mike Gapes; Sheila Gilmore; Pat Glass; Mary Glindon; Roger Godsiff; Lillian Greenwood; Nia Griffith; Andrew Gwynne; Dai Havard; Julie Hilling; Sharon Hodgson; Kate Hoey; Huw Irranca-Davies; Glenda Jackson; Cathy Jamieson; Susan Jones; Gerald Kaufman; Alan Keen; David Lammy; Ian Lavery; Mark Lazarowicz; Tony Lloyd; Andrew Love; Fiona Mactaggart; Kerry McCarthy; John McDonnell; Alison McGovern; Jim McGovern; Michael Meacher; Ian Mearns; Alun Michael; Andrew Miller; Austin Mitchell; Graeme Morrice; Grahame Morris; George Mudie; Teresa Pearce; Stephen Pound; Linda Riordan; Steve Rotheram; Virendra Sharma; Jim Sheridan; Dennis Skinner; Andy Slaughter; Andrew Smith; John Spellar; Gerry Sutcliffe; Emily Thornberry; Stephen Timms; Karl Turner; Stephen Twigg; Joan Walley; Malcolm Wicks; Phil Wilson; David Winnick; Mike Wood; Jeremy Corbyn (Teller – not counted in final vote); Kelvin Hopkins (Teller – not counted in final vote)
Other MPs who voted for the Bill:
Peter Bone & Phillip Hollobone Conservative
Hywel Williams Plaid Cymru; Caroline Lucas Green; Angus MacNeil SNP
Despite letters and postcards from constituents and WB&DTUC, none of Wolverhampton's 3 MPs voted for the Bill.
The Labour Party leadership failed to back this bill whose sole aim was to stop employers seeking unwarranted injunctions to prevent lawful strikes on minor technicalities as in the BA dispute.The current legislation puts a massive burden on trade unions and means trade union ballots are subject to far tighter regulations than general elections.
The Bill will:
Ensure fairer industrial action balloting procedures
Prevent employers exploiting minor technical errors in ballots and notices in order to invalidate the whole ballot
Prevent the courts from overruling a democratic ballot merely on technical grounds.
The Bill is having its Second Reading in Parliament on the 22 October 2010 and in order for this to take place 100 MPs must be present in the Commons. Write to your MP now asking them to make sure they are there!