It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate my hon. Friend Faisal Rashid on securing this debate and on talking eloquently about this important issue. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of his private Member’s Bill that he talked about.
As we know, the right to join a trade union is a basic democratic right. Trade unions play an invaluable role in ensuring that justice is served, defending their members’ workplace rights, pay, and terms and conditions. As I have said many times in this place and will always say, the best thing anyone can do to protect themselves at work is to join a trade union. I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my membership of GMB and Unite.
As my hon. Friend said in his excellent speech, the European convention on human rights provides that everyone has the right to form or to join a trade union for the protection of his or her interests. Given that, we might think there would be no need to introduce his Bill to remove restrictions on trade unions conducting business in workplaces in the UK, but sadly both the law and the culture in this country place little emphasis on workplace protection and do little to support or respect it.
Far too many people experience insecurity, uncertainty and exploitation at work. As we have heard, in-work poverty is on the rise and zero-hours contracts are widespread. Anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Government has actively sought to clamp down on trade unions and to diminish the voice of ordinary working people. In my opinion, that is based on a ridiculous and outdated view of trade unions and their role in society.
As we heard, there are 6.5 million trade union members in the UK. Every hon. Member present today will have constituents who are members of trade unions. They are ordinary men and women who want to organise themselves collectively to strive for better working conditions, and who can argue with that as an aim? We should be supporting them in their efforts to improve working conditions, not attempting to thwart them. As my hon. Friend said, a happy workplace is a productive workplace; it is good for employers and good for the economy.
We should therefore be saddened to hear that research by the TUC has found that one in three workers do not feel comfortable approaching managers about a problem with work, that more than one third do not feel that they or their colleagues are treated fairly and that nearly half say that their line managers do not explain their rights at work. Trade unions were founded exactly for those reasons, to fight for the rights of every worker.
Union representatives in the workplace can inform workers of their rights, help to ensure those rights are enforced and provide workers with a collective voice in negotiations with employers. They provide the safety net we all need. That is why it is vital that trade unions should have a legal right of access to workplaces in the UK.