A CARDIFF-BASED lawyer has come up with a list of ways to fight the government’s controversial Trade Union Bill which would make it harder for unions to strike.
Speaking at a meeting on Friday at the Cardiff offices of the union Unite, solicitor Michael Imperato said: “Legal challenge will not be easy but we’re playing for very high stakes.”
The Trade Union Bill, which is currently being reviewed in the House of Lords, has been fiercely criticised by unions, Labour and even some Tories. Trade unions represent nearly half a million Welsh workers who would be affected by this bill.
The main aim of the bill is to raise the required voter turnout for a union to call a strike to 50% of its members. Unions representing workers in key public services would need 40% of all eligible voters to vote in favour of action.
Critics of the move compare the figures with the last election when the current government was elected with 36.9% of the vote on a voter turnout of 66%, meaning 24% of all eligible voters voted Tory.
Mr Imperato said the bill might be challenged under the right to freedom of assembly in the European Convention on Human Rights.
In a document given out at the meeting he wrote: “It is not for Government to interfere with the internal organisation of groupings of private individuals who otherwise operate within the law.
“However, the proposals in the bill strike at the heart of the freedom of trade unions members to come together in an effective manner.”
Mr Imperato suggested the bill might also be challenged on the basis of the government’s own equality impact assessment, saying: “The government’s analysis of its proposals to weaken workers rights is that there is zero impact on equality.
“However, a couple of embarrassing editing slip ups indicate they don’t have the data to back up their analysis.”
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell also addressed the meeting, calling the bill “an existential threat to trade unionism in this country”.
Cardiff council is discussing a motion this week to write to Westminster opposing the trade union bill. The Welsh Assembly and other councils including Caerphilly, Birmingham and every council in Scotland have already done this.
Labour councillor for Splott, Edward Stubbs, who proposed the motion, said: “It is right that the council debate the Trade Union Bill, which is an important matter for the residents of Cardiff and council staff, many of whom are union members.
“The UK government are worried they are losing the argument on public services and are now legislating to stop working people from having their collective say. Legislating to block criticism by effectively stripping people of their democratic right to strike. “
Llanrumney Labour councillor Keith Jones who is seconding the motion said: “If this bill passes, the right to strike will be under threat. The right to strike is a basic right as important as the right to vote.
“We know how hard fought these basic human rights were and we will not stand by and let a Tory Government in Westminster turn the clock back to nineteenth century Dickensian Britain.”
Some Cardiff councillors do support the bill. Tory councillor Rod McKerlich said: “These people are living in a time warp if they think the right to strike is the most important right.
“I’d rather talk about council services and attracting more high paid jobs to Cardiff. “