Sinn Féin table new law to boost trade union rights

Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson is to propose new legislation that will strengthen the ability of trade unions to take industrial action and represent the needs of workers.

Speaking ahead of submitting a private members bill in the Stormont Assembly, the Foyle MLA said the new legislation was needed to begin reversing the damage caused by decades of anti-worker, anti- trade union laws imposed by the Tories.

Martina Anderson commented: “Successive Tory governments dating back to the Thatcher era have imposed anti-worker, anti-trade union laws that have sought to undermine the impact of the trade union movement and its ability to improve pay and conditions for workers across all industries.

“In particular, there has been a huge decline in collective bargaining over the last four decades, which has coincided with the rise in low-paid and insecure work. 

“Current legislation also forbids statutory trade union recognition in companies with less than 21 employees. This means that a huge swathe of workers in small or micro businesses are not legally entitled to engage in collective bargaining over pay and conditions.

“The bill that I am submitting today will remove this restriction, opening up trade union rights to thousands of employees here. It will also put in place a number of measures to enhance the ability of unions to organise, collectively bargain and to take industrial action. 

“It will further include key protections for workers engaged in lengthy industrial action disputes. Currently, any employee that carries out strike action for a period of over 12 weeks can be dismissed without protection from unfair dismissal. This legislation will end this arbitrary practice which serves only to curtail the impact of industrial action by deterring workers from continuing strike action.

“This bill on its own will not rectify the impact of decades of Tory attacks on the rights of workers but it will begin the process of providing crucial protections for employees. I hope that it gains widespread support in the Assembly because, as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, protecting the rights and entitlements of workers will be more necessary than ever.”