Scots councils to defy Trade Union Bill measures

Business Secretary Sajid Javid denied the Trade Union Bill was an attack on working people. Picture: Getty Images
Business Secretary Sajid Javid denied the Trade Union Bill was an attack on working people. Picture: Getty Images
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A TORY clampdown on trade union rights faced a massive backlash in Scotland last night as MPs passed a bill making it much harder for workers to go on strike.

The Trade Union Bill was set to be pushed through last night by the Tory majority in Westminster.

GMB general secretary Sir Paul Kenny. Picture: PA

GMB general secretary Sir Paul Kenny. Picture: PA

However, Glasgow City Council led the way in announcing it would defy measures in the legislation to stop providing union representatives work time to perform their duties and automatically pay union fees from the payroll.

Last night a senior Scottish Labour source said they believed that Glasgow would be followed by other Scottish Labour-run councils including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Fife and Renfrewshire.

SNP ministers have also implied that they would consider ignoring the ending of the so called “check off and facilities” measures.

Trade union legislation is reserved and applies to the whole of the UK so a stand-off could see a legal challenge or demands for further devolution to Scotland.

Meanwhile at the conference in Brighton, trade union leaders discussed holding a general strike against the proposals and called them a “declaration of war”.

They also ended their opposition to proportional representation in Parliament, in a move designed to end the chance of a Tory majority.

Conservative Business Secretary Sajid Javid moved the second reading of the Trade Union Bill and insisted the government was not trying to ban or restrict strikes but to ensure ballots were fair and reasonable.

The legislation creates minimum turnout thresholds for strike ballots and in public services requires at least 40 per cent of eligible union members to back a strike.

New Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sat silently behind the Labour despatch box during the initial exchanges, next to his new shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and close to shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Enraged opposition backbenchers bombarded Mr Javid with repeated interventions and angry shouts.

But Mr Javid insisted the bill was “not an attack on the rights of working people” and the measures would be defending those working people “hit hardest by industrial action”.

For Labour, Ms Eagle said the government had brought forward “another gagging bill” in an attempt to “silence” trade union voices.

She added it could be open to legal challenge “on a number of fronts”, including its impact on the devolution settlements.

The SNP’s Chris Stephens, a member of Unison, declared his “total opposition” to the bill.

He said: “In reality, this bill will lead to a deterioration of good industrial relations and it has no support within public opinion.

“It is designed to reduce civil liberties and human rights, and it also displays a remarkable ignorance that we’ve heard with some of the speakers. It tries to justify this bill by quoting industrial action that actually meets the thresholds they propose.”