HC Deb 18 October 1982 vol 29 cc21-2W
Mr. Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) if he is satisfied with the remedies individuals have available to them if they are expelled by their trade unions for refusing to take industrial action;

(2) what representation he has received alleging that individuals were compelled to strike in support of Health Service workers on the "Day of Action" on 22 September 1982 by threats or intimidation from their trade union officials; and whether he is giving consideration to further amendment of the law.

Mr. Waddington:

My Department has now received some 50 separate complaints in writing concerning both individuals and groups of employees outside the Health Service who were compelled to take industrial action on 22 September by threats from their trade unions that disciplinary action, including expulsion, would be taken against anyone refusing to strike. In none of these cases were the employees involved allowed to vote by their union on whether to take industrial action or not. to 55 years, (d) persons over 55 years, (e) minority groups, (f) males, (g) females and (h) disabled persons; and if he will give a comparable figure for 1979.

Mr. Alison:

The following table gives the information for the Birmingham travel-to-work area at the latest available dates and for the corresponding months in 1979.

The Government utterly condemn flagrant attempts of this kind by trade unions to compel individual members to take industrial action against their will.

Under the Employment Act 1980 every employee working in a closed shop has the right not to be unreasonably expelled by his trade union. In deciding whether a member has been unreasonably expelled an industrial tribunal must take into account guidance in the code of practice on the closed shop which says that unions should not fine or expel members who refuse to take strike action in certain defined circumstances, for example because no secret ballot has been held.

Where a tribunal finds that a member has been unreasonably expelled from his trade union it may subsequently order the union concerned to pay hint compensation.

The current Employment Bill will strengthen the protection in the 1980 Act by making it unfair to dismiss an employee for non-membership of a trade union in a closed shop if a tribunal has found him to have been unreasonably expelled from his union.

In addition we are now considering whether the provisions of the closed shop code of practice on circumstances where unions should not discipline members who refuse to strike should be strengthened in the light of recent events.