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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:44 pm on 4th June 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 5:44 pm, 4th June 2019

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, as a fellow north-west MP, I am a passionate advocate of the positive role that unions can play. I have stepped into this debate today because the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kelly Tolhurst, who is the Minister with responsibility for small business, consumers and corporate responsibility, has to take an urgent question in the main Chamber. This is her policy remit, but I will certainly speak to her to see what we can do to ensure that we lobby for things such as Unionlearn in the spending review. I am passionate about trade unions. In 2015, I helped to re-establish the Conservative workers and trade union movement in my own party, so Members have a friend of the trade union movement stood before them today.

Let me turn to the points made in the debate. I think it would be helpful if I set out the legislative position. Workers in the UK have a right to join a trade union. That right is protected under our trade union law. It is automatically unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee on the grounds of trade union membership or for being active in a trade union, and employers cannot subject their workers to detriment in attempting to deter union membership or participation in trade union activities.

All union members have the right to participate in union activities, which includes members who are union officials. They have the right, for example, to organise union meetings and consult their members. Furthermore, the right to be active in the affairs of a trade union is enhanced where the union is an independent union that is recognised by the employer for collective bargaining purposes. Officials of such unions may seek time off work with pay to discharge certain union duties. Members who are union learning representatives may also seek paid time off in order to carry out their functions. Individual workers can enforce these rights at an employment tribunal.