My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was a union rep at my workplace before I joined Parliament, and the number of cases in which I represented my colleagues is unbelievable. There are a number of things that union reps can achieve, working with the employer and of course the workers, and that is crucial.
With the success of New Zealand in mind, I want to see similar legislation adopted in this country. Last month, I presented a private Member’s Bill to that effect, which seeks to remove a number of restrictions on trade unions’ conducting business in workplaces. I have received a lot of support for the Bill from hon. Members, over 50 of whom were willing to co-sign it. However, to date I have not been supported by a single Conservative or Liberal Democrat MP.
Arguments against increasing the collective bargaining power of working people have long been discredited. It is a myth that strong trade unions drive down profit. If strong trade unions drive down productivity, why has the UK long suffered from a productivity gap despite having the most restrictive trade union laws in western Europe? In truth, a happy, well-respected workforce is also a productive one, but the stories I have heard from union officials paint the opposite picture: too many people in this country feel exploited and dispensable at work.
If we are to transition away from a low-wage, precarious economy, increasing the collective bargaining power of our workers is critical. That is why I am fighting to improve trade union access to the workplace. We need strong trade unions and a better deal for working people.