Anger as union bill advances

Wigan Town Hall

Wigan Town Hall

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CONTROVERSIAL proposals denounced as “an ideological attack” on unions by Wigan’s council leader has cleared another Commons hurdle.

The Trade Union Bill, which aims to reform strike ballot thresholds among a raft of changes, was voted through its third reading stage in the House of Commons by a majority of 34.

The planned legislation now moves to the Lords, which will be targeted by opponents of the Bill.

The reforms sparked heated dispute at Wigan’s recent full council meeting as Conservative leader of the opposition Coun James Grundy called the threshold changes for strike ballots as “perfectly reasonable.”

The Bill will introduce a 50 per cent turnout requirement for strike ballots, while in public services such as health and transport at least 40 per cent of those entitled to vote would have to back action for it to be legal.

Union leaders have vowed to continue fighting the conditions of the reforms. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government has shown once again its determination to undermine the fundamental right to strike. Ministers simply want to make it harder for working people to get fair treatment at work.”

Lowton East’s Coun James Grundy told last week’s full council meeting: “You can absolutely still can join a union and have the option to strike.

“Let’s be honest, there’s only two options on a strike ballot. You don’t have yes for strike, no for strike and Ukip, that doesn’t happen.

“You have two options (therefore the threshold should be higher).”

Leader Lord Smith called on his chamber colleagues to support a motion asking for chief executive Donna Hall to write to Westminster voicing concerns over the controversial Bill.

He called it an ideological attack that would harm “existing good working relations with staff” and the motion received chamber approval.