This draconian and partisan bill has no democratic mandate

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16 September 2015 by ATL
ATL vice-president Shelagh Hirst is among the members of ATL's Policy Council attending TUC this year. On Monday, she spoke to a motion on the Trade Union Bill. 

Much has been written about the Trade Union Bill and the threatened introduction of thresholds of a 50% turn-out for industrial action ballots, and 40% of eligible voters to support action.

This punitive bill takes disproportionate action to diminish the rights of employees, many of whom, from a sense of duty to children, work very long hours in all aspects of education.

Education professionals never take industrial action lightly. It is always a last resort when all negotiations are exhausted. The right to withdraw one’s labour legitimately from the workplace remains a fundamental right of all workers.

ATL members may not be aware that the Trade Union Bill also includes a provision for employers to use agency workers to replace permanent members of staff during strikes.

ATL policy council is deeply concerned about this proposal. We are worried that it:

  • fails to take into account the capacity of supply agencies to fill staff posts, and risks major issues around DBS checks
  • could place children at risk when agency staff are required to support those with additional needs, disabilities, or child protection or health care issues, without adequate support of their own
  • could drive a wedge between supply and full-time teachers, and harm the important professional collaboration that research has shown improves pupil outcomes.

ATL members recently took industrial action in a local dispute, and agency staff were used to undermine the strike. When it was pointed out that this was illegal, the arrangement was stopped.

Anyone can see that, with this law under threat, agency staff could find themselves in the very difficult position of either crossing picket lines of colleagues or risking their future employment.

Our supply staff members fulfill a difficult and challenging role, utilising their skills and abilities to improve our children’s education. They should not be put in this difficult position.

If the TUC Bill is passed unopposed, workforce relations could be significantly damaged, ultimately making dispute resolution harder.

Furthermore, our professionalism will be undermined along with our children’s best interests regarding their safety and the quality of their education.

ATL believes the education workforce - those people committed to helping young people - will be treated unfairly by this attack on all Trade Unions. Real disputes would be scarce if fit-for-purpose negotiating machinery was in place.

Our efforts should be directed towards nurturing the negotiation process – by government as well as by employers and unions.

You can find out more about the Trade Union Bill on the ATL website. We urge you to take action by:

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The act requires unions to inform police and employers of strike plans 14 days in advance, including any proposed use of placards or loudspeakers, blogs or social media, and insists that the “lead person,” wears an armband and gives details to police and employers. Disgraceful!!!