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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.


A personal tribute from general secretary Dave Prentis to our president, who passed away yesterday
Yesterday, we heard the sad news that our president Eric Roberts, a lifelong servant of our union and of those in greatest need, had died after a brief struggle with cancer.
He was the president of UNISON, but more importantly he was a loyal and true friend to so many of us.
Born in Litherland, a proud Scouser and Liverpool fan, Eric was a man who lived enough – and had stories to tell – for more than one lifetime. From fixing drums for the Beatles, to wine waiter, baker and pots and pans seller – Eric eventually found his way to London.
And one day, seeing an ambulance shooting down Oxford Street, he decided that’s what he’d like to do.
He had found his calling. For 42 years he served the London Ambulance Service with the passion and dedication for which he became well-known, and his union as branch secretary, NEC member and – this year – our president.
He was the first ambulance person to be elected as UNISON president – something that I know was a source of immense pride to Eric, his branch, his family and everyone who knew him.
Eric wasn’t someone who sought out high office. Ambition wasn’t what drove him: instead, it was an unstoppable desire – a need – to serve people and help people, to represent them and to do his best for them.
To Eric, everyone in the union and the ambulance service had a part to play – and every day he did his job to the best of his ability, and brought out the best in others at the same time.
His loyalty to this union was as unquestionable and unswerving as his love for its members.
I will miss his honesty. I will miss his infectious personality. But most of all I will miss his friendship. Eric Roberts was a good man who gave so much to so many people.
Eric said upon his election as president that UNISON was the “best union in the country”, but the truth is that Eric was the best of us.
Today, our thoughts are with his children Jack and Rhian, family, friends and colleagues, as our union mourns one of our biggest personalities, most loved friends and most powerful advocates for the values that sustain us.
Eric Roberts – I will miss you, we will all miss you.
Rest in Peace my friend.




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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