The government finally made important concessions on the Trade Union Bill this week after months of hard campaigning from trade unions, their members and Labour MPs.
The government announced it would accept the compromises proposed by the House of Lords, knowing they faced a united opposition if they had refused to compromise.
The government had planned to change the way trade unionists paid into their union political fund. They wanted union members to ‘opt in’ every five years to remain in the political fund and gave unions just three months to sign up their members.
It was an obvious attack on the ability of unions to campaign for their members and a partisan attack on the Labour Party and our ability to hold the government to account.
The government has now agreed to delay changes to political funding and have given trade unions 12 months rather than three to engage with new members. Most importantly, existing members will be exempt from the changes.
This is a welcome move, and an important victory as rushing through the changes to political funds would have had serious knock-on effects for trade unions’ capacity to campaign.
After refusing to introduce e-balloting, the government again conceded and agreed to a trial of e-voting for strike ballots. This will allow trade unions to bring balloting into the 21st century and encourage turnout and participation.
Labour also forced the government to back down over plans to end the right of workers to pay union subscriptions automatically by deducting them from their wages.
These are hard-fought and welcome concessions, but Labour still remains opposed to the Trade Union Bill in its entirety.
It is unnecessary, bad for workers and bad for businesses. We will look to push for further concessions.