Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, during the course of discussions on the Bill, my noble friends and I raised the possibility that the present wording of a party offering anything to a worker entitled to vote could be interpreted to cover unions campaigning when they campaign for recognition and seek to set out their agenda for looking after workers, should they join the union or vote for recognition.

I thank my noble friends on the Front Bench because I feel that they have met the concerns that we voiced in Grand Committee and afterwards. These amendments improve the Bill.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, we do not oppose any of the modifications that the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, outlined. In fact, we welcome the clarification and better wording proposed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.
 
8 Sept 2004 : Column 644
 

Lord Triesman moved Amendments Nos. 3 to 5:


"(aa) makes an outcome-specific offer to a worker entitled to vote in the ballot,"
Page 12, line 4, at end insert—
"( ) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(aa) an "outcome-specific offer" is an offer to pay money or give money's worth which—
(a) is conditional on the issuing by the CAC of a declaration that—
(i) the union is (or unions are) recognised as entitled to conduct collective bargaining on behalf of the bargaining unit, or
(ii) the union is (or unions are) not entitled to be so recognised, and
(b) is not conditional on anything which is done or occurs as a result of the declaration in question."
Page 12, line 18, leave out from "if" to end of line 19 and insert "votes may be cast in the ballot on more than one day, the last of those days."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 12 [Unfair practices in relation to derecognition ballots]:

Lord Triesman moved Amendments Nos. 6 to 11:


"(aa) makes an outcome-specific offer to a worker entitled to vote in the ballot,"
Page 16, line 13, at end insert—
"(2A) For the purposes of sub-paragraph (2)(aa) an "outcome-specific offer" is an offer to pay money or give money's worth which—
(a) is conditional on—
(i) the issuing by the CAC of a declaration that the bargaining arrangements are to cease to have effect, or
(ii) the refusal by the CAC of an application under paragraph 106, 107 or 112, and
(b) is not conditional on anything which is done or occurs as a result of that declaration or, as the case may be, of that refusal."
Page 16, line 27, leave out from "if" to end of line 28 and insert "votes may be cast in the ballot on more than one day, the last of those days."
Page 19, leave out lines 14 to 16.
Page 19, line 20, at end insert—
"119I (1) This paragraph applies if—
(a) a ballot has been arranged in consequence of an application under paragraph 112,
(b) the CAC has given the employer an order under paragraph 119(1), 119C(3) or 119H(4), and
(c) the ballot for the purposes of which the order was made (or any other ballot for the purposes of which it has effect) has not been held.
(2) The applicant worker (or each of the applicant workers) and the union (or each of the unions) is entitled to enforce obedience to the order.
 
8 Sept 2004 : Column 645
 

(3) The order may be enforced—
(a) in England and Wales, in the same way as an order of the county court;
(b) in Scotland, in the same way as an order of the sheriff."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 21 [Information about employees to be balloted on industrial action]:

Baroness Turner of Camden moved Amendment No. 12:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I suppose that I should have raised this matter at an earlier stage of the Bill's proceedings. However, it became apparent to me only when I received a copy of the Bill as amended on Report. Under the Bill as it stands, a union must notify an employer of not only the categories of workers who are to be balloted about dispute action but also the workplaces at which the employees concerned work. I think that notification of categories ought really to be sufficient, but in present circumstances, workplaces may be widely distributed. An employee may work at one at a particular time and then at another. Some workplaces may in fact have few people working there at a given time. With very few workers, it rather nullifies the provision that the employer does not have to be told the names of those concerned. With a small number of employees at some workplaces, he would not need to be told. The union may not know where everyone is at a given time. If mistakes are made, that could lead to challenges and further difficulties.

I think that the Government must have had some idea that there were problems because of the provision in proposed subsection (2I)(b) of Clause 21(4) concerning,

I still think that that could lead to problems.

A union calling an official dispute already has a number of hurdles to surmount to ensure that the action remains within the law and that members are entitled to the limited protection afforded by the law. This workplace requirement adds to the difficulties. Our amendment highlights these in the hope that the Government will agree that this needs to be looked at, even at this very late stage. We wanted very much to highlight the difficulties that we think it could present. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, we fully admit that this amendment should have been raised before. Indeed, what we are trying to get the Government to consider affects both Clauses 21 and 24. It is all about the kind of information that a union has to provide an employer. Under Clause 21 it has to provide information about a ballot; under Clause 24, we assume that the ballot has been held, there has been a majority and now there will be a strike. It has to give the same kind of information under Clause 24 as under Clause 21.
 
8 Sept 2004 : Column 646
 

I am not blaming the Minister, but in introducing these changes he said a number of things quite fast. Until one read what he said on Report in Hansard, it was not quite clear. He said that the changes being included here would improve the wording. We are not sure that they do. He said that they would remove the confusion but we do not think that they do. He said that they were technical but, when you think about it, they are much more than technical. We are in fact extending quite significantly—and we have done this since 1992 and 1993 when the measure was introduced by the previous government—the kind of information that the union has to provide in a potential industrial dispute.

We must think about that, because it was said at the time, as many noble Lords will remember, that it is very important that certain types of information should not be given. For example, we should not make the union tell the employer who the workers are. That was admitted at the time and I am not suggesting that we are doing that. It was said that there had to be a balance. In other words, the things that go on the forms that are sent to an employer help him or her. If those things are of a certain type they may not help the union. That is why we said that the names of the workers involved should not be included.

However, I am not at all certain that an employer could not work out who the workers were, because we have to declare all the workplaces involved, the number of workers and the categories of work. It might be quite easy in certain circumstances to work out who was likely to be involved in the industrial action. You might say, "Well you'll find out when it starts so what's the difference?" However, if one knows a fortnight or three weeks in advance that a union is planning industrial action that is not quite the same, is it?

Moreover, I am not saying that employers should not be allowed to do such things, but the employer might say, "The problem is really in workshop four, because hardly anybody is coming out anywhere else. But it is critical because 200 or 300 people are involved and they are all coming out. They all voted in favour. That is the place where we have to divert the work. It is no good sending any work to them because there will not be anybody there to do it". Or he might say, "This is where we have to get the supervisors to do the work". Different information is being given to the employer and one would not expect the employer to do anything other than make the best use of it. We might be creating serious problems for a union organising a strike.

Finally, the union might be inaccurate. That is dealt with in the Bill, I know. However, if the union were inaccurate and put down the wrong names, included people who had moved somewhere else or thought that all it had to do was send a check-off return of people who had their money taken out through DORCAS—deduction at source—that might very well be out of date or inaccurate and might not include all the people involved in the dispute. Technically, the return could be inaccurate. If it were inaccurate and if an employer were bloody-minded enough and alleged that it was inaccurate, the employer could get some kind of interim injunction to prevent the action.
 
8 Sept 2004 : Column 647
 

I am not criticising an employer who does such things. If they are allowed by the law they should be done. But we have to provide a balance. We have to find something that is fair and equitable to both sides. This measure is creeping forward. I ask the Government, even at this late stage, to think about whether all these words, clauses and conditions are strictly necessary. I support the amendment.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page