Trade Union Access to Workplaces — [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 4th June 2019.

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Photo of Faisal Rashid Faisal Rashid Labour, Warrington South 4:30 pm, 4th June 2019

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point, which I will come to later in my speech. If employers look after their employees and they are happy, then they are more productive; in the end, everybody wins. That was a great point.

It is no exaggeration to say that working conditions at large multinational companies are, at times, reminiscent of the deplorable practices of the 19th century. Workers have recounted having to urinate in bottles for fear of being disciplined for a toilet break and heavily pregnant women report being refused permission to sit down for a break during 12-hour shifts. How can we allow this to happen in the UK in the 21st century? I have spoken to countless trade union officials who tell me that, despite the widespread desire for improved rights and conditions at work, efforts to unionise staff in such workplaces are often fruitless.

In large part, that is because there are currently no rights of access for trade unions to enter the workplace and speak to workers for the purposes of recruitment. Workers at Amazon have had their shift patterns interrupted and randomised simply to prevent them from talking to union officials on the way into work. Union representatives visiting branches of McDonald’s across the UK to speak to workers about the benefits of joining a trade union are routinely thrown out of stores, with their presence reported to senior regional managers.

When I raised these issues in Parliament several weeks ago, both Amazon and McDonald’s responded by denying that these practices were taking place in their stores. McDonald’s stated:

“We strongly dispute the notion that we are asking people to leave our restaurants based on their membership of a union. If anybody comes into a restaurant with the sole intention of disrupting our people while they work, or customers while they eat, we would ask them to leave regardless of their reason for causing disruption.”

Does that attitude not sum up the problem with the current legislation? The crucial work of our trade unions is simply a nuisance to these companies and is getting in the way of their exploitative practices and profiteering. The current laws simply let them get away with it.