Please help us to tackle an urgent threat to privacy for union members.
Andrew Lansley's controversial Lobbying Bill is currently in the House of Lords, as he attempts to push it through Parliament against overwhelming public opposition
The whole thing is a mess. Part one of the Bill fails to tackle the problem of poliitical lobbyists and money in politics. Part two is a chilling attack on the free speech of civil society groups during elections. Unions are just one part of a wide coalition that has forced the government to ‘pause’ consideration of this.
But this means that the Lords debate on part three of the Bill has been brought forward to a rush vote( ). Action on this is urgent, as this part of the Bill holds real risks about the confidentiality of trade union membership.
The Bill will give the government's Certification Officer new powers to access membership records. Unions will have to appoint a government-approved membership assurer, who will have new powers to access membership records. Anyone will now be able to make complaints about union membership records – even employers in dispute with a union – or those with an anti-union political agenda. Those complaints will be assessed by investigators who also get new powers to pry into union membership records.
Of course lots of trade unionists are happy to be open about their membership, but recent revelations about blacklisting show that employers still discriminate against union members, and in some workplaces this could be a major concern.
The pause in part two is to be welcomed, but it means the government has rushed forward part 3 from consideration in December to next Monday November 11 which means there hasn't been time to brief peers properly, or even make sure all of those on our side will be there for the debate.