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Trade Union Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 26th January 2016.

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Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

No—I will not be taking interventions.

It is not unreasonable to require an opt-in process for union political donations. Often, members are unaware that they can opt out of the political part of their union subscriptions. It is only right that people can make a clear decision about who they donate money to and what that money is to be used for.

On the timing and duration of industrial action, the bill will extend the notice that must be given to employers from seven days to 14. At present, the action must begin within four weeks of the ballot, although that can be extended to eight weeks by agreement with the employer, or 12 weeks by a court. The bill will impose a four-month limit on industrial action before a new ballot has to be held. That means that the action must start within that period, but it will be able to start at any time within those four months.

The bill will put into law some of the provisions of the picketing code of practice. The current version of the code is from 1992, although it originated several decades earlier. It is well followed by responsible trade unions, but one of the catalysts for the legislative change is the inappropriate intimidation tactics that have been used during disputes such as the one at Grangemouth last year or the year before that.

The bill does not propose to stop so-called facility time—time that an organisation’s staff spend on trade union duties and activities during working hours. However, it will ensure greater transparency by extending the requirements on the public sector to publish information on the time and money that is spent on facility time.

Under the so-called check-off process, a number of public sector trade union members have their union subscriptions deducted from their salary by their employer and transferred on their behalf. That also happens occasionally in the private sector. The practice was introduced when many working people did not have a bank account. In the 21st century, it is just as easy to set up a direct debit.