Socialist Worker

Labour government blocks workers’ rights

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2126

Any belief that Gordon Brown’s government is going to back workers rights took another blow as the government voted down a series of amendments to the Employment Bill that would have given limited rights to workers in industrial disputes.

One amendment would ban employers from hiring agency workers to do the jobs of striking staff, and force them to inform employment agencies that there was a dispute to avoid an excuse of ignorance.

Another would have forced employers to provide contact details for workers to a union seeking an industrial action ballot, reducing the administrative burden on unions.

These basic polices are backed by all the unions and the TUC.

Only 44 Labour MPs and nine members of other parties rebelled against the government over the Employment Bill. While it is the largest backbench revolt since Gordon Brown became prime minister, hundreds of union backed Labour MPs voted against these limited rights and against the policy of unions who financially back them.

Fifteen Labour MPs also called on unions to be allowed to expel BNP members without penalty but that amendment was not even put to the vote.

The Tories as well as voting with the government against the pro-union amendments even attempted to amend the Bill to make it easier for bosses to limit agency workers rights further and deny workers having tips excluded from the minimum wage.

Left wing Labour MP John McDonnell proposed the amendments, describing the current rules as “onerous, costly and over-complicated”.

Moving what he described as an “extremely reasonable and moderate” amendment to the Bill, he said there should be a duty on employers to co-operate with unions when conducting a ballot for industrial action.

He also called for workers taking lawful industrial action to be protected from being “sued, sacked or penalised”.

New Labour Business Minister Pat McFadden called for a vote against the amendments, saying, “I am, of course, happy to continue a dialogue with trade unions about how the law operates… but I am not convinced that a duty on employers to help trade unions organise these ballots is the right way forward.”

Many union leaders keep arguing that millions of pounds of members money should go to the Labour Party. Yet again the government and union sponsored MPs have not only done nothing to deserve this money but voted against basic workers rights.

Once more Labour has treated the unions and their members with contempt.

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Article information

Wed 5 Nov 2008, 12:41 GMT
Issue No. 2126
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