Lesley Brennan

Trade Union Bill : The Tories' Imaginary Numbers

 


17 September 2015
 



There is a set of numbers known as “imaginary numbers” where the number doesn’t correspond to anything in the real world that we live in.

Despite their unreal nature, imaginary numbers have their uses in the real world; to take just three examples :
for air traffic control , digital imaging in medicine , and business cycle analysis in economics

The Tories have used their own political version of “imaginary numbers” - numbers which they imagine justifies their Trade Union Bill introduced this week at Westminster which in the real world will have a disastrous impact on employment rights

Number One

When the Tory Government talks about “trade unions”, the word “strike” and phrases such as “holding the country to ransom” usually follow close behind.

They imagine that the number of days lost through strikes makes their case for action against union rights.

However, numbers from the Office of National Statistics tell a different tale.

The number of days lost through strike action in the UK last year was 788,000.

That figure is lower than in any year during the Second World War, and lower than in any year of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership.

Also , the number of days lost through strikes was a small fraction of the annual number of working days lost through stress, anxiety and depression – 15 million ( ONS data for 2013)

And there is reliable evidence to link the austerity policies of the Tory Government to mental health :

"Austerity is having a 'profoundly disturbing' effect on Britain's mental health, say experts", ran a headline in the Independent

Numbers Two and Three

The Tories imagine that the number 50 is a fair number as the minimum percentage -50 per cent - of the trade union membership in “important public services" -(the NHS, education fire service, transport, border security and nuclear decomissioning) who must vote in a ballot for industrial action .

There is another number 40 - which adds an extra sanction : that support for action in “important public services" must be approved by 40 per cent of the entire membership. ( the equivalent of an 80 per cent approval on a turnout of 50 per cent of members)

No Tory MP, MSP or councillor has ever had to clear such a huge hurdle to get elected at general elections, council elections or at by-elections.

The TUC have responded with their own numbers - from the real world

Their polling earlier this month has indicated that :

“65 per cent of the public think employers using temporary workers as cover during strikes will give permanent workers less power to defend their pay and conditions at work.

*77 per cent of the public think making it compulsory for unions to give two weeks’ notice if they intend to use a loudspeaker or carry a banner during a strike is a “bad use of police time”.

*72 per cent think forcing unions to submit what they are planning to post on Facebook, Twitter and on blogs during a strike two weeks in advance to the police would be a “bad use of police time”.

*60 per cent of the public (and 79 per cent of trade unionists) think making the lead person on a peaceful picket line give their name to their employer will have a negative effect on that person’s career.

In the video below TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady presents further evidence as to why this Bill will be opposed.



And there is yet another number to add that illustrates the anti-union spiteful nature of the Bill

The Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) found that "Managers were typically positive about their relationship with their employees, the vast majority (96%) rating this relationship as either ‘Very good’ or ‘Good’"

The report was sponsored by and published two years ago by the UK's Government's Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills - the Tory-led Government of David Cameron.