Happy New Year everyone. It’s Day 4 back in the office for the team here at unionstogether, and we’ve hit the ground running on the Trade Union Bill.
On Monday, the House of Lords debates and votes on the Bill for the first time. That’s not the end of the process. We still have Committee Stage, Report Stage, Third Reading and Ping Pong (yes, it’s actually called Ping Pong) before the Bill becomes law. That’s plenty of opportunities for us to make a difference.
We’re working hard to try and limit the damage this Bill will do, and so is the whole movement. But what worries me more than anything is the lack of scrutiny of what’s in the Bill, and what it means for our democracy.
We’re focussing our campaign on Clause 10 of the Bill. It’s a seemingly bureaucratic clause that means union members have to opt-in to unions’ political funds, instead of having the opportunity to opt-out. Seems pretty innocuous on the surface. But dig a little deeper, and it becomes clear that this is intensely political.
The effect of this Clause would be to cut off trade unions’ financial support for the Labour Party - while doing nothing to limit the hedge funds and millionaires that support the Tories. This will create an overwhelming funding imbalance in our political system overnight. And we’re not talking small change here – the estimates are that Labour will lose out on tens of millions over each 5 year Parliament.
Let’s put this in context for a moment.
- The Gagging Bill, silencing charities and civil society.
- Making it harder to register to vote.
- Reducing the number of MPs and redrawing the Parliamentary map in a way that benefits the Tories.
- Using the new (smaller, thanks to point 2) electoral register to decide what that Parliamentary map looks like, meaning the Tories’ advantage is even greater.
- Appointing record numbers of Tory Peers to the House of Lords.
- Changing the rules to stop the House of Lords overruling the Government.
- Threatening the Freedom of Information Act.
- Cutting funding to the BBC.
- All the other provisions in the Trade Union Bill that restrict unions’ ability to organise and speak out on behalf of their members, at work and in the wider world.
- A 19% cut to the Short Money (money to support Opposition Parties, as they don’t have the Civil Service to support them like the Government do), that will cut Labour’s budget by millions more.
It all adds up to a pretty sinister picture. This Government is abusing its majority in the House of Commons to restrict our fundamental rights and freedoms, to silence dissent and scrutiny, and to make it easier for the Conservative Party to win elections.
But where’s the outcry and the headlines? The truth is that most of this is being passed without press scrutiny, and without the people of this country realising what they stand to lose.
We’re doing what we can to change that. But we need your help. We’re going to be launching some new campaign tools next week to help you do just that, but in the meantime there are 3 simple things you can do to make a difference. Firstly, watch this short video with Angela Smith, Labour Leader in the House of Lords, talking about what the Trade Union Bill. Secondly, share it with your networks on facebook and twitter. Thirdly, sign up to join our social media team during the debate on Monday. We’ll send you some graphics and tweets you can post on your networks, and help us to spread the word about what is at stake.
This Bill isn’t done yet. There’s still time for us to limit the damage it can do – together, we can help expose exactly what this Government is up to.