Trade Union Bill 2015-16

The Trade Union Bill is a new set of laws that will severely restrict working peoples’ ability to organise for their own rights and campaign for a more progressive society. It will go through Parliament this Autumn and could be law by February 2016 and will apply in England,Scotland and Wales.

UNISON is campaigning against the Trade Union Bill because we believe MPs should be focusing on the real problems our country faces and working with everyone, including trade unions, to solve them, rather than taking away people’s right to be supported at work.

Find out more about our campaign and how you can get involved


The government’s Trade Union Bill has finished its parliamentary journey and is now an Act.

Follow the progress of the Bill.


A Parliamentary Briefing Paper on Second Reading (08/09/2015) summarises the bill clause by clause.

UNISON activist briefing: A summary of the whole Bill

TU Bill is enacted with concessions

Government withdraws plan to stop check-off for subs payment

Trade union proposals impact assessments are “not fit for purpose”

The Right to Strike

Use of agency workers to break a strike

Deduction of contributions at source (DOCAS)


The Trade Union Act and UNISON's Political Fund

UNISON has a long and proud track record of successful political campaigning in support of our members and the services they provide. This work is made possible by our political fund, which has two distinct sections – the Labour Link and the General Political Fund (GPF). The current attack by the Conservatives on trade union political funds is proof not only of the highly ideological nature of the current government, but also of the effectiveness of our political campaigns.

This consultation is about listening to the views of UNISON members on how we respond to the political fund changes demanded of us in the Trade Union Act 2016 in a way that enables our political campaigning to continue despite the challenges posed.

The Trade Union Act 2016 will require all unions in Great Britain with political funds to switch from an ‘opt-out’ to an ‘opt-in’ system for all new members, and to remind all new members of their right to opt out annually. As a consequence of effective lobbying by UNISON and other unions, the political fund provisions of the act do not affect existing members, who will continue to pay into the Labour Link or GPF funds as previously, unless they exercise their existing right to opt out from paying into the political fund. The implementation date for these measures is 28 February 2018.

To meet this timetable, rule changes will need to be agreed by the political fund committees; approved by the Certification Officer; and submitted by the NEC in February 2017 for debate at UNISON national delegate conference in June 2017. The working group is consulting branches, regions and self-organised groups (SOGs) across the union, to ensure that all members get to have their say about the future of the fund. This process needs to be completed in time for responses to be incorporated into proposed rule changes taken to the February 2017 NEC meeting. Responses to the consultation should be sent by return email by 20th January 2017. More details can be found at

Consultation Questions:

Question 1 - Do you agree with the working group recommendation that we should look at ways of altering subs rates to try and maintain a degree of simplicity for new members?

Question 2 - What are your views on the idea of a system whereby new members (from February 2018) pay the same sub as existing members and then pay the political fund contribution on top?

Question 3 - What are your views on the benefits and difficulties of political fund contributions being paid through direct debit? (note: because the sums would be small, such payments might be annual.)

Question 4 - What are your views of the principle of harmonising the amount members pay into Labour Link and GPF?

Question 5 - What are your views about the contribution for new members becoming a single flat rate, as opposed to the current arrangement where they pay a percentage of their contribution?

Question 6 - What are your views about giving new members a choice of how much they contribute to the political fund? (e.g. 50p a month, £1 a month, £3 a month)?

Question 7 - What do you see as the main challenges and barriers to signing up prospective members to the political fund?

Question 8 - What ideas do you have for maximising the number of new members opting in to the political fund?


TU Bill is enacted with concessions

The government’s Trade Union Bill has finished its parliamentary journey and is now an Act. We didn’t manage to defeat the entire bill, but we did manage to remove several elements of it that would have irrevocably damaged the trade union movement.

The key changes we won:

These added to concessions already made to:

Though this bill is still a damaging and undemocratic piece of legislation, we should be proud of the campaign we have run.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Of course we’d rather the bill had never existed, and there is much that is still wrong with it. Even with today’s amendments it still places unnecessary burdens on working people and their unions.”

Read more


Government withdraws plan to stop check-off for subs payment

The government has withdrawn plans to ban public service workers from having their union subs deducted from their wages.

As the House of Lords started its report stage debate on the Trade Union Bill, Cabinet Office minister Lord Bridges confirmed that the government was withdrawing the plans to end check-off in the public sector and civil service.

Read more


Trade union proposals impact assessments are “not fit for purpose”

The Regulatory Policy Committee – an independent body appointed by the government which verifies the costs and savings of proposed changes to businesses and civil society – has today (Friday) slammed the government’s trade union proposals impact assessments as “red – not fit for purpose”.

The RPC found that the government had not made the case for any changes in the law on trade union picketing and protest – including proposals to make unions give 14 days’ advance notice of whether their members will use Twitter or Facebook during protests. They said that ‘there is little evidence presented that there will be any significant benefits arising from this proposal’ and 'the definition of the problem currently appears weak and must be substantiated'.

On agency workers being allowed to replace striking workers, the RPC found that the government's impact assessment undermines its own central assumption, as 'it provides reasons why it might be more beneficial to the employer to take the short-term costs associated with a strike instead of seeking temporary workers'.

And the RPC suggested that the government had been too hasty in pushing through their proposals, and called on the government to consult further – including specifically with those unions and employers affected by the additional 40 per cent threshold requirement for industrial action.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said “The government’s trade union bill threatens the basic right to strike – and it’s being rammed through with unseemly haste, without a proper case being made.

“We’re pleased that the Regulatory Policy Committee has exposed the lack of consultation and the unfair imposition of excessive red tape on unions and employers. This is an opportunity for the government to take a step back, recognise that they were wrong, and drop these proposals which threaten the democratic right to strike.” 

The RPC’s full judgements are available here


Key concerns affecting the right to strike

The Trade Union Bill is anti-democratic

UNISON believes that the right to strike is a fundamental one, which should be respected in a free and democratic society. The UK already has one of the most regulated systems of industrial action in the world, with unions having to comply with highly complex legal requirements. Just the imposition of a 50% participation threshold in strike ballots will have a chilling effect on the ability of employees to take legitimate strike action.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) Freedom of Association Committee:

‘The requirement of a decision by over half of all the workers involved in order to declare a strike is excessive and could excessively hinder the possibility of carrying out a strike, particularly in large enterprises.’

The ILO has called on governments to amend their national laws where they included such provisions. Together with additional restrictions of a 40% ‘yes vote’ in important public services, an obligation on unions to give 14 days’ notice for industrial action and the removal of the ban on the supply of agency staff to cover strikes this is a serious erosion of the right to strike which goes against the government’s international and human rights obligations.

The government has refused to consider measures such as electronic balloting or workplace balloting supervised by independent scrutineers. This runs counter to the pursuit of electronic participation in every other area of its work. The government’s claim to be ensuring democratic mandates for action by introducing ballot thresholds is undercut by their refusal to make it easier for members to vote.

Allowing union members to use secure electronic voting for industrial action ballots would increase participation in union democracy, particularly among younger members. Instead, the Trade Union Bill will restrict the democratic rights of working people and the ability of trade unions to represent their members in the workplace. It will ultimately lead to a diminishment of your voice at work.


The Trade Union Bill will allow employers to use agency workers to break strikes

Employers will be allowed to bring in agency workers when their employees  are on strike.

The use of agency workers during strikes undermines the right to strike and  could impact on the safety and quality of the services normally provided by  trained and qualified staff.

Not only will it put those agency workers in a difficult and stressful position  as they are asked to cover a service in a workplace they are not familiar  with, it may also compromise the safety of the services that are provided.


The Government Attacks Trade Union Funding

The Trade Union Bill represents a pernicious attack on UNISON members’ contractual right to pay union subscriptions by deduction from payroll.  Removing DOCAS (Deduction of Contribution At Source) will deny UNISON members the most convenient method of maintaining their protection at work.  Branches potentially face a loss of members, a drop in income and a fall in workplace density.

UNISON will hold a one day workshop on 8 February which will help activists to:


New on Site


Learning at Work Week

15-21 May 2017. The theme this year is Curious and Creative for Learning at Work Week.

Distance Courses

Starting 24 April 2017, these courses can be done online or paper based.


NEC Elections

Branch nominations and ballot details.

'There For You’ Newsletter

This newsletter includes an update on the changes to the Bereavement Support Payment as well as contact details for ‘Down to Earth’, who provide practical and emotional support throughout the funeral process.


Branch Lottery

Winners in March.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/13

Executive pay bandwagon rolls on

Cycle courier entitled to holiday pay

Employment law changes this April

New minimum wage rates kick in

UK lags on maternity

Merger heralds new teaching union

Consultation on caste discrimination



New courses for members and stewards.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/12

Inflation leaps to 3.2%

More regulation of gig economy needed

Appalling risk of suicides in construction

Fat cats — the great pay divide

Racist abuse after Brexit vote

Lack of diversity at top in Wales


Branch Committee

Papers for the meeting on Monday 3 April.


Regional Disabled Members Group

Meeting on Tuesday 28 March 2017 at 4.30pm.

Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Nottinghamshire Police have taken the bold step to identify misogyny as a hate crime and Northern UNSION are keen for this to be replicated in our region. The aim of the event is to identify how we can move the issue forward across the region with all three Police and Crime Commissioners.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/11

Swings and scooters of inflation basket

No real improvement in weekly earnings

Cosmetic improvement with Living Wage

Zero-hours contracts at record high

Unemployment falls below 1.6 million


AGM 2017

Agenda and annual report.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/10

Economic forecasts in Hammond's Budget

Mixed fortunes in ethnic women's pay gap data

Company merger and acquisitions in 2016

Numbers on zero-hours contracts at a high

GMB take on DX delivery firm

Former chancellor's nice big earner

Charter to stop violence at work


March/Rally for Durham Teaching Assistants

Saturday 25 March. Hear grassroots, union and guest speakers and watch the Reel News film showing the Durham Teaching Assistants’ story.

LGBT Policy weekend

Saturday 25 March, to plan UNISON LGBT activities for the year ahead.

HOPE Not Hate Event

A joint training session for trade union and community activists on how to organise to defeat the politics of division.  18 March 2017.

NE People’s Assembly

March calendar of events and activities.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/9

Trade Union Act regs come into force

Gender pension gap leaves women short

Violence at work — the nasty truth

Bookseller's £7m salary

Money purchase pension are norm

British Gas denied appeal in Lock case

Government fails in ethnicity review


Branch Committee

Papers for the meeting on Monday 6 March.

Retired members

Papers for the retired members' meeting on 17 March.


Branch Lottery

Winners in February.

Workers Memorial Day

Morning seminar and afternoon remembrance service in Hartlepool on Friday 28 April 2017. There is also an Eve of WMD ‘Gig’ on Thursday 27 April.


Labour Research Department Fact 79/8

Government green paper on pensions

A 'Stern diet' for fat cat directors' pay

Employers — don't miss out on talent

Argos repays £2.4 million to 37,000 staff

Economic growth revised upwards

Work fears of disabled people revealed

In the papers

Migrants have helped make Britain. It’s time to celebrate us

NHS at breaking point, according to British Medical Association

Councils prepare to cut essential services to fund adult social care

London transport spending equivalent to £1,500 more per head than North East


Labour Research Department Fact 79/7

Minimum wage cheats named and shamed

Inflation hits three-year high

Unemployment at 11-year low

Inflation erodes growth in weekly earnings

In the papers

Migrants are always the scapegoats. But now they’re taking on Ukip’s lies

I, Daniel Blake is a realistic depiction of life on benefits. Isn’t it?

English social care system for elderly facing 'complete collapse'

North East peers want law to make Government investigate impact of Brexit on region

North East recruitment drive revealed as jobless total in region rises

UK employment growth driven by foreign nationals, figures show

The NHS needs a rethink. Its priorities no longer make sense

Top Labour politicians come to 'UKIP area' Sunderland for Brexit debates and festival

Rothbury Community Hospital inpatient ward closure public meeting this week

Shopping will cost you more as prices rise, but is Brexit to blame?

Campaigners calling for u-turn over Post Office move

UK labour shortages reported as EU worker numbers fall

Britons living in the EU face Brexit backlash, leaked paper warns

Then the Daily Mail came for Gary Lineker, and we said: ‘Enough!’

Brexit survey revealed: What you would do if given second shot at EU referendum

Booming gig economy costs £4bn in lost tax and benefit payouts, says TUC

There will be a shameful betrayal of the Brexit low-paid

Welcome to the new dark ages, where only the wealthy can retire

NHS 'pays £7.5m a year for 20 most expensive agency doctors'

Drive to bring health and social care together is a well-intentioned mess


Disabled Members Policy Weekend

Sunderland, 19/20 May 2017.

Members training

Sign Language (BSL) Introduction, 2 March 2017

Dementia Workshop, 30 March 2017

Reps training

Regional Education Calendar 2017

In the papers

A&E in England had worst delays ever in January, leak suggests

Why was Newcastle Council leader Nick Forbes the star of Prime Minister's questions?

Number of patients stuck in hospital 'far higher than NHS data shows'

It's time corporate tax dodgers started losing lucrative council contracts

More council housing needed in the North East - government report reveals

Council tax, youth funding and bins: 6 things to look out for from Sunderland budget meeting

TyneMet and South Tyneside colleges merger: What it means for jobs, campuses and its new name?

Labour Research Department Fact 79/6

Review of tribunal fees finally published

Plan to tackle abusive hiring practices

Insecure work on rise

Twenty eight directors share £68.37 million


Affiliations and donations

A list of affiliations and donations that the branch committee has approved since January 2015.


In the papers

UK faces return to inequality of Thatcher years, says report

NHS ID scheme could deter eligible patients, say MPs

Councils may cut social care provision due to underfunding, LGA says

Nursery schools: ‘What society gives children less chance than their parents?’

Council tax rise planned for Northumberland residents as authority faces £36m cuts

'Trump can't hack Trebs' - the best signs from Newcastle anti-Trump demonstration

Labour Research Department Fact 79/5

Racism at work

Economy grows but there's a shortfall

Advice on gender pay gap from Acas

Tories offer no solution on discrimination

Eight assaults a day in Welsh schools


A quarterly periodical updating branch reps on employment law.


Branch Lottery

Winners in January.


Young Members

Northern Region Young Members AGM

Black Members

UNISON Northern Region Black Members Forum AGM 2017.

LV Car Insurance

Discounted car insurance for UNISON members.


North East March and Rally for #ourNHS

In Newcastle on Saturday 4 February.

Branch Committee

Papers for the meeting on 6 February.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/4

Death by a thousand fire service cuts

Guidance on stress

Modern-day slave traders jailed

Fees let bad bosses get off scot free

Top-ranked inclusive employers 2017

Get tough on pay, says pension funds


Women's Network AGM

Agenda and nomination form for the mmeting on 4 February.

Disabled Members

Annual Meeting of the Regional Disabled Members Self Organised Group on Tuesday 31 January 2017.

Members training

Mental Health Awareness Workshop on Thursday 16 February.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/3

Wales to ditch parts of 2016 Trade Union Act

Inflation rates at highest since 2014

Retail inflation eating into earnings growth

UK unemployment at nine-year low

In the Papers

Public sector pay poised to fall by thousands in real terms, TUC says

May’s promise on workers’ rights is hollow if she doesn’t get a deal

NHS crisis: the one act of self-sacrifice that could rescue our health service

Politicians have ignored the working class for too long

World's eight richest people have same wealth as poorest 50%

Crisis, what NHS crisis? Theresa May must stop this denial

Welsh government tables bill to overturn Trade Union Act


Anne Frank Trust Exhibition

UNISON have now been allocated two spots on the 16 January to have guided tours around the Anne Frank exhibition. 

Labour Research Department Fact 79/2

Courier's tribunal win against CitySprint

TUC warns over Brexit threat to workers' rights

Lame excuses for not paying minimum wage

High street store fined over safety

Manufacturing output edges higher

Child poverty briefing


Branch Lottery

Winners in December.


The Trade Union Act and UNISON's Political Fund

Consultation on political fund review: December-January

Reading Ahead

We are having our first Reading Ahead launch at Welford Learning Zone on 11 January between 10am and 11am.

Trade Union Reps courses

Book now to secure your place on one of the courses for Reps at Newcastle College starting in January 2017.

Northern Region Training Programme

UNISON courses in 2017. These courses are free and open to all members unless otherwise stated.

Labour Research Department Fact 79/1

'Precarious pay penalty' of zero-hours staff

Plans for a Universal Basic Income

2017 — economic forecasts for year

'Fat Cat Wednesday' has been and gone

Northern Ireland to reveal political gifts

UK's deficit in trade in goods gets ever worse

UK economic growth revised upwards