Wales shows way on blacklisting – but it’s a different story from Westminster

Victoria Phillips is head of employment rights at Thompsons Solicitors

The Weekly Thompsons Solicitors Blog

 

This week saw the governments in Westminster and Cardiff taking sharply contrasting positions on trade union rights.

 

As the Welsh Government announced measures to tackle blacklisting of trade unionists, Conservatives and Lib Dems in the House of Commons voted through measures that threaten the right to privacy of more than seven million union members.

 

The Welsh Government’s stance on blacklisting is in stark contrast to the coalition’s plans to give itself – and unspecified numbers of unelected government officials – unprecedented powers to require trade unions to hand over members’ personal details.

 

Part 3 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, currently being rushed through Westminster, would mean the Certification Officer, his staff and appointees can require trade unions hand over individual membership records and personal correspondence. More than seven million people could be affected.

 

It’s a spiteful piece of anti-union red tape from a government that’s meant to be opposed to red tape.  And it’s a chilling intrusion on privacy with serious implications for freedom of association, which is a fundamental right in the UK and throughout the democratic world.

 

People join trade unions for all sorts of reasons but mostly for protection – trade unionised workplaces are recognised as safer workplaces for example – but it should be up to them and a private matter. As the TUC has put it: ‘it is not the business of the State to know who is or is not a trade union member, and where they live’.

 

The Welsh Government is tackling blacklisting by issuing guidance that, in bids for public sector contracts, companies that have denied employment opportunities because of trade union membership or activity should be excluded.

 

This is a breath of fresh air compared to the attitude of Tory and Lib Dem MPs in the House of Commons this week, who voted down Labour amendments to the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill that would have limited or qualified government intrusion powers.

 

At a time when we know blacklisting is a reality, we should be looking at an enforcement authority and laws that makes blacklisting a criminal offence across the UK – but instead we have this unprecedented and radical intrusion into people’s lives with no evidence as to why it’s necessary.

 

Thompsons Solicitors is working with trade unions, MPs and civil liberties groups to defend the right to privacy of union members and freedom of association, in line with international law.

Read the Thompsons response to the Bill consultation here

 

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