Trade Union Bill

Written evidence submitted by Dusty Amroliwala, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of East London (TUB 56)

I write on behalf of my University to offer a number of headline comments and reflections on the proposed House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Trade Union Bill.

About UEL

The University of East London (UEL) is a modern University located in Stratford and the Docklands. We have c19,000 students, employ c1,400 staff and recognise 3 trade unions: UNISON, UNITE and UCU. UEL prides itself on being engaged with socially important issues. Our students mainly live within the East London area - in some of the most socially deprived boroughs in the UK. We have been proactive on the issue of social and financial exclusion (both for our own students and those in the local community) for a number of years and we are proud of our track record in this important work.

General comments

In respect of the specific measures proposed in the Bill, we have the following comments:

1. Where they are recognised, trade unions can play an important role in resolving disputes in the workplace and in avoiding the need for industrial action. Placing tighter restrictions on trade unions, may in some circumstances, lead to a deterioration in good (and therefore effective) employee relations.

2. In recent times, our experience of working with our trade unions has been a positive one, and it is clear to us that our recognised unions seek to avoid becoming embroiled in formal disputes with us. We have in the past year, for instance, and at the request of our unions, sought ACAS’s support to conciliate on what might otherwise have escalated into a matter of formal dispute.

3. The Government’s proposals may prove divisive in some workplaces, and may impact detrimentally on co-operation and employee engagement, staff turnover and productivity.

4. Although UEL considers itself a good employer and we have a constructive relationship with our unions, we know that some of the most deprived workers in our society are less fortunate, and may be employed by less scrupulous employers. In such cases we continue to recognise the importance of having a strong trade union within a workplace, to moderate the behaviours of such employers.

Specific comments

5. "Check off": The Government has announced its intention to stop "check off" in the public sector. At the time of writing, the wording of the amendment has not been seen. As an employer we do not have an issue with implementing "check off" arrangements.

6. Picketing (Clause 9): laws already exist which prevent intimidation or the use of aggressive behaviour on picket lines and unions must comply with the Statutory Code of Practice. We do not see the benefit in tightening further the legislation on picketing.

7. Facility time (Clauses 12/13): our union representatives play a vital role within UEL, enabling consultation and negotiation, collective agreement and policy development as well as helping to deal with difficult individual matters on behalf of their members. Reasonable facility time is something that we are content to allow – to the benefit of all parties. We believe that the allocation and agreement around facility time should be left to the employer’s discretion, as it is in the private sector.

8. Ballots: we would support legislation permitting the use of secure electronic and workplace ballots, although it would clearly be necessary for proper safeguards to be in place to ensure that such ballots were conducted properly.

I trust that these comments may be of assistance.

 

October 2015

Prepared 28th October 2015