Caerphilly County Borough Council became the first authority in Wales to officially oppose the UK Government’s Trade Union Bill.
A motion put forward by Labour councillors, including council leader Cllr Keith Reynolds, attacked the “counterproductive, vindictive, socially divisive bill”, that is “driven by Conservative ideology”, as an “attack on democracy”.
It was unanimously passed by the full council last night, September 29.
The Trade Union Bill has been likened by unions to this generation’s poll tax and will make it illegal for public sector workers to strike unless 40% of all unionised employees vote for industrial action.
For other workers to strike at least 50% must turnout for the ballot, while picketing workers would be forced to wear armbands and unions would have to give two weeks notice of action.
After the motion was passed, Cllr Reynolds said: “I’m proud that Caerphilly is the first council in Wales to serve notice of a motion opposing the Tory Government’s unprecedented and ideological attack on the largest voluntary organisations in our country.
“Unions provide essential protection for workers, especially at a time of austerity-driven attacks on their jobs, terms and conditions.”
The move was also welcomed by council employees after First Minister Carwyn Jones suggested public sector workers in Wales could be protected from the legislation.
Speaking to Caerphilly Observer last week, Mr Jones said: “Public sector employment is devolved as far as we are concerned, although the Westminster Government would disagree.
“In areas where we are responsible we will not be implementing the Trade Union Bill that attacks employment rights and trade union membership.”
Gary Enright, Branch Secretary of Unison at Caerphilly County Borough Council, welcomed the motion on behalf of his members.
He said: “The Trade Union Bill is so destructive and unnecessary. It will curb democratic rights and suppress our civil liberties.
“I’m really proud that Caerphilly’s Labour council has taken this decision today to help protect the voice of ordinary working people in the political system.
“Well done Caerphilly. Now we want other councils across Wales to do the same.”
Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis also congratulated Caerphilly councillors.
He said: “Unison commends the Labour Caerphilly councillors in passing this motion.
“The council becomes the first of, we hope, many local authorities in Wales to tell ministers there is no appetite for this bill because it rips up good employment relations that currently exist.
“People are starting to realise that the Tories are out to attack the civil rights of working people.
“Unison will continue to lobby elected representatives with a clear message, let’s work together for a better future: drop the Trade Union Bill.”
The bill will also be opposed by tens of thousands of protesters from across Britain who are due to demonstrate at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Sunday, October 4.
It passed its second reading in the House of Commons on September 14, despite sustained opposition from Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Shadow Cabinet.
Leader of Plaid Cymru on the council, Cllr Colin Mann, said: “The Plaid Cymru group voted to support the notice of motion because the Conservative Government’s Trade Union Bill is an attack on working people.
“The proposal to curb the power of trade unions and their ability to withdraw their labour must be resisted because it strikes at the heart of democracy. Many MPs were elected on far lower percentages of the vote than trade unions will be asked to meet if this becomes law. It really is one rule for MPs and another for working people.
“David Cameron is quite happy to push his rich cronies into the unelected House of Lords while his government try their level best to prevent working people walking out in a dispute.
“Strikes are not a problem and it has been reported that the 6.5 million British people who belong to a union withdrew their labour, on average, for one day in 15 years. Hardly, an issue that deserves such draconian measures.”
A Caerphilly Labour group spokesperson said: “It’s just unfair and wrong that the Tory government wants to impose a minimum of 50% turn-out in union ballots for industrial action, when very few Tory MPs got anywhere near a 50% majority yet were elected to Parliament last May.
“Their double standards, and their attempt to restrict unions’ ability to represent their members, must be defeated.”
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who drew up the bill, was supported by 38% of those eligible to vote in his constituency at the General Election in May.