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 will raise that matter with the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, and I am sure she will be more than happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with an answer.

In his speech on 15 May introducing his Bill, and again today, the hon. Member for Warrington South referred to strengthening collective bargaining in the workplace. In the UK, collective bargaining remains an important method whereby pay and other terms and conditions are set. The UK takes a voluntary approach to collective issues. Collective bargaining is largely a matter for individual employers, their employees and their trade unions. Most collective bargaining in this country takes place because employers have voluntarily agreed to recognise a trade union and bargain with it. The Government do not believe that they should be in the business of forcing employers or their workers to enter into collective bargaining arrangements if they do not wish to do so. Instead, we prefer a voluntary and democratic approach. However, where an employer refuses to recognise a trade union voluntarily, our legislation provides for a statutory recognition procedure.

In 2018-19, the Central Arbitration Committee received 56 trade union recognition applications. Of those, six were able to reach agreement without the need for a ballot, including that reached between the employer Babcock Mission Critical Services Onshore and Prospect. A total of 25 applications were withdrawn and, encouragingly, 13 of these were because the employers and unions were able to reach agreement voluntarily. The key point I wish to reiterate is that if a majority of workers in a workplace want to organise and be represented by a trade union, they have the right to secure trade union recognition for collective bargaining purposes.

The Government recognise the important role that trade unions play in the UK economy and society and, personally, I hope that that continues for many years to come. Individual workers have the right to join a union and take part in union activities. Unions, through their individual members and officials, effectively have the right to recruit and organise in the workplace. Unions are also free to seek collective bargaining agreements with employers. If necessary, they can obtain statutory trade union recognition as long as they can demonstrate majority support for union recognition in the workplace. Our legislation therefore does not need amending. It is well established, and has been backed by successive Governments. If workers and unions want collective bargaining in workplaces across the UK, they are free to organise to achieve that.