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MPs should reject ‘cynical and ideological’ anti-union rules, TUC urges

PARLIAMENT must reject “cynical and ideological anti-union rules,” the TUC demanded today as MPs considered legislation which could hit trade unions with huge financial penalties.

The Tory government’s proposals would impose a significant levy on unions — 2.5 per cent of their total income — to cover the costs of the certification officer, the trade union regulator.

This approach is out of step with other comparable regulators, the union body stressed, arguing that political parties do not fund the Electoral Commission and charities do not pay levies to support the Charity Commission.

The changes, contained in 2016’s widely criticised Trade Union Act but not yet implemented, could also see unions facing five-figure fines if any rule breach is judged to have occurred.

The plans would allow third parties to make anti-union complaints which could lead to “vexatious complaints” from bosses or inconvenienced members of the public, particularly during industrial disputes, the TUC warned. 

In response to concerns about the move raised by Labour MP John Spellar during a committee debate on the proposals today, junior business minister Paul Scully claimed: “This is not a political move, this is not politicising the regulator.”

Stressing there is “no case” for financial penalties, the TUC highlighted that, in 2020-21, the certification officer dealt with just 34 complaints — one for every 200,000 union members — and not one resulted in further action.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rather than dealing with the problems working people face, the government is trying to tie unions up in more red tape.

“It is telling of the government’s real concerns that they choose to spend valuable parliamentary time on new anti-union rules.

“Now is the time to be working with unions, not undermining them. 

“That’s why MPs should reject these cynical and ideological proposals — and instead join with unions and their members in delivering better pay and conditions for working people.”

Institute of Employment Rights director Ben Sellers told the Morning Star that the proposals “seem deliberately and unnecessarily punitive.”

He said: “These ‘reforms’ should be seen in the context of the government’s whole approach to unions, which is to salami-slice their rights while at the same time feeding a false narrative that unions are somehow serial ‘rule breakers’ when genuine complaints against them are negligible.”

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