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Last year, as the Trade Union Act 2016 concluded its passage through parliament, Labour MP Jo Stevens warned that the government had set itself on a “collision course” with Wales, which would end in the Supreme Court.
Indeed, Wales was open in its opposition to the Act so far as it affected industrial relations within Welsh public services, and this week the Assembly fulfilled its vow to legislate in order to repeal those sections of the TUA that affect the devolved public sector by publishing the Trade Union (Wales) Bill.
The Bill proposes to overturn new laws to place an additional 40% support threshold on industrial ballots within "important" public services; reserved powers for Westminster to intervene in the facility time of public sector trade union representatives; and restrictions on the popular check-off system of deducting trade union subs from wages.
The UK government last year argued that Wales could not repeal the law as employment and industrial relations legislation has not been devolved, but Welsh Finance and Local Government Minister Mark Drakeford yesterday said that the Supreme Court has made it "clear" that where laws affect devolved responsibilities such as public services, the Welsh Assembly has jurisdiction.
Elsewhere, Westminster has published new guidance on how the Trade Union Act will apply to "important" public services, as well as reports on the financial impact of changes to union political funds, and a new impact assessment on the Act as a whole.
The legislation is expected to come into force in April of this year.
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The Institute of Employment Rights welcomes the announcement by Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility, Margot James this week that Sir Ken Knight has been appointed to Chair an independent review into electronic balloting for unions.
The government was forced into conducting the review after trade unions and Labour MPs fought for the right for trade unions to use electronic balloting systems during the passing of the Trade Union Act (TUA) through parliament earlier this year.
Initially, the Tories argued that electronic systems could be open to fraudulent activity, but as it was pointed out during the debate, these are the very same systems used by the Conservative Party for their own internal elections such as that of their nominee for London mayor.
The review, and the government's response to it, will be presented to parliament by December 2017 at the latest and will investigate any security issues with electronic balloting.
Currently, trade unions are limited to using postal ballots, which are expensive to run and less effective in gaining a significant turnout to votes. This impedes trade union democracy and could now significantly weaken the ability of trade unions to fight back against unfair treatment by employers after the TUA introduced new support thresholds of a 50% turnout for industrial action ballots, and an additional 40% of support for strikes from the whole workforce (with abstentions effectively counted as 'no' votes) in many public services.
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