Oppose the Trade Union Bill

TU Bill protest logo
Nautilus International is joining with other TUC-affiliated unions in the UK to campaign against the Trade Union Bill, and urge the government to instead make meaningful steps towards increasing trade union democracy.

What this campaign is about

UK MPs and peers are discussing the Trade Union Reform Bill; a bill which Nautilus International believes threatens the basic rights of workers and will shift the balance of power in the workplace.

Getting a pay rise or defending terms and conditions will become far harder for working people as the right to take strike action is seriously reduced.

As well as changes to members’ rights to vote for and undertake any form of industrial action, the government is also undermining trade unions’ ability to go about their everyday business representing workers. The Bill proposes lots of new restrictions on how unions work, how they are regulated and how they spend their money.

The key changes introduced by the legislation include:

  • the right for employers to use agency workers to replace striking workers
  • an increase in the notice period required for industrial action from seven to 14 days
  • unions will have to appoint picket supervisors who will be required to carry a letter of authorisation and be identifiable by an armband or badge
  • the possibility that unions (and members) will have to report protest publicity plans to employers and regulators 14 days in advance of any action
  • essential services (which in the government’s definition includes some non-public sector maritime services) must have a ballot turnout of 50% of eligible members and 40% of those must vote in favour 

For more information on the detail of the proposed legislation visit the UK Parliament website.

What we want to achieve

Quite simply, we want to stop the Trade Union Bill from being passed into law. If a compromise position is required, we will fight to get individual measures in the Bill redrafted, to minimise harm to our members and other British workers.

We also want to see an alternative measure adopted which really would improve workplace democracy: namely, to make it legal for British union members to vote in union ballots online — employing secure technology such as that used by banks.

What we have achieved so far

The ability for unions to conduct electronic ballots was first raised by Nautilus International back in 2013. A motion to Congress called on the TUC to campaign for a change in the law to allow members to participate in union democracy via the internet. Nautilus explained that, with members often away from the UK for months at a time, it was not possible to secure a good turnout in postal ballots. The TUC adopted this motion and it has become one of their main campaigns, especially in light of the proposed legislation.

General secretary Mark Dickinson and the TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady have spoken out publicly against the Bill, and have urged UK members to sign the petitions and enlist support for the campaign from their MPs.

At the 2015 General Meeting, Ms O’Grady was one of the key speakers. She told members that the Trade Union Bill was ‘the biggest attack on trade union rights that we have faced in more than 30 years’.

The TUC has held a number of meetings with government and opposition MPs and has been successful in gaining support for changes to the Bill from cross-party MPs. 

Following a high turnout at a London rally in November 2015 by TUC-affiliated unions, the government has now removed some of the controversial social media restrictions proposed by the Bill, but there is still lots we aren't happy about.

What’s next

Members of the Union’s UK committee, along with other members and officials have joined a TUC march and are lobbying MPs to ask them to vote against the Bill at its next readings.

A number of petitions have been set up calling on the government to reconsider various aspects of the Trade Union Bill.

If you live in the UK, please ask your local MP to vote against the Trade Union Bill. You can find the contact details for your MP on the UK Parliament website. All UK members are still encouraged to get involved in opposing the Bill by writing to their MP. Members can use a model letter (pdf) to send to their MPs and contact details can be found by visiting the TheyWorkForYou website.

The Union will continue, with the TUC, to push for a change in the law to permit secure online voting in union ballots. Members will be informed about how they can help with this campaign via the Nautilus Telegraph and on this website.