David Davis, the senior backbench Tory, has signaled a potential rebellion by likening David Cameron’s trade union reforms to living under Spain’s fascist dictator, General Franco.
“There are bits of it which look OTT, like requiring pickets to give their names to the police force,” said David Davis on Sky News’ weekly Murnaghan programme, “What is this? This isn’t Franco’s Britain, this is Queen Elizabeth II’s Britain.”
The alleged clampdown on workers’ civil liberties comes at the same time as the Conservative government is planning to intervene in private religious matters. As Breitbart London reports elsewhere, the government is looking at forcing all priests, rabbis, imams and other religious figures to enrol on a “national register of faith leaders” after undergoing prescribed training and security checks.
MPs are debating the trade union legislation today. The reforms proposed include a 50 per cent turnout threshhold for industrial action, tighter restrictions on picketing, a vote in favour by at least 40 per cent of eligible members if the strike involves “important public services,”and the requirement to re-ballot on strike action after four months.
In addition employers will need 14 days’ notice of a strike rather than the current seven, giving them a longer buffer period in which to arrange strike-covering agency workers, and unions will have to give the police two weeks’ notice if they plan to campaign using social media, or risk fines of up to £20,000. Local authorities may also be given the power to issue anti-social behaviour orders to strikers’ pickets.
Davis, a noted civil libertarian who challenged David Cameron for the leadership of the Conservative Party back in 2005, said he agreed with most of the bill, describing it as “very sensible,” reports The Guardian. However, he sees some measures as “draconian,” specifically citing the requirement for picketers to give their names to police.
Consultation papers suggest picketline supervisors will be required to take “reasonable steps” to tell police name, contact details and locations of those on the picket line. Striking workers will also have to sport armbands or badges for identification.
Trade unionists are opposing the bill, reports The Mirror, describing aspects of it as “Stalinist” and warning it could make criminals of strikers. The Labour Party’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has also pledged to fight the government’s attempt to”shackle” unions. Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights have also criticised the proposed reforms.
The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, said the bill balances the rights of people wanting to take action “with those of working people and business,” reports The Independent.