Legislation protecting devolved public services in Wales from the UK Government’s Trade Union Act will today receive Royal Assent.
When enacted, the Welsh Government’s Trade Union Act will dis-apply parts of the 2016 UK Government Act that relate to devolved public services – namely, the NHS, education, local government and the fire service which are all the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales.
The UK Government had previously questioned whether the Trade Union (Wales) Bill was within the National Assembly for Wales’ legislative competence, but the Attorney General has since decided not to refer the question of competence to the Supreme Court.
The Trade Union (Wales) Act dis-applies aspects of new UK Government legislation that impose an overall support threshold of 40% on strike ballots, includes provisions on trade union facility time and conditions on payroll deductions for trade union membership - commonly known as check-off.
The Act will also protect the position where agency workers are prevented from covering the work of public sector employees during industrial action, in the event the UK Government acts to remove that protection.
Speaking ahead of today’s official sealing ceremony where the Trade Union Bill will become an Act, First Minister Carwyn Jones said:
“From the very offset we said that the UK Government’s Trade Union Act was damaging, divisive and unnecessary.
“We were not prepared to allow the UK Government to firstly legislate on an area that is devolved to the Assembly – something that the Attorney General now seems to have accepted – and secondly to undermine the tradition of social partnership we have in Wales.
“This tradition is founded on mutual respect amongst all parties involved in negotiations – an approach where the Welsh Government, employers and the trade union movement come together to deal with problems and improve the delivery of public services.
“Thanks to this important piece of Welsh legislation, those who work in public services in Wales will not be placed under the same punitive conditions that we’ll see over the border.”
Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said:
“We value and respect the work of Trade Unions and their members. It has always been our position that constructive social partnership is by far the best way to prevent strike action.
“We should never have been in a position where we had to introduce an Act in Wales to dis-apply parts of a UK Act but the UK Government would not accept this was an area of devolved responsibility.
“I’m proud that workers in public services in Wales will continue to be protected and that our approach of bringing government, employers and trade unions together to resolve disputes will continue to be upheld.”
WLGA Leader, Councillor Debbie Wilcox (Newport) said:
“As the employers’ body for local government in Wales, we welcome the Welsh Government’s Bill which will see a number of hard fought for rights for trade union members restored.”
“We have always maintained a good working relationship with our trades unions both locally and nationally which is borne out through the minimal industrial action in Welsh local government over the last decade. We respect the work of trades unions and the rights of their members and we want to continue to engage with them constructively to support and sustain local government services in Wales.”
“Local authorities in Wales have always sought to engage in a constructive manner with the trade unions to ensure the workforce is able to deliver the essential public services that are relied upon by thousands of people every day.”
Wales TUC General Secretary, Martin Mansfield said:
“The Welsh government has taken bold action and done the right thing in firmly defending workers’ rights and devolution in Wales. Following months of campaigning and joint working, we welcome today’s chance to mark a major promise kept and delivered.
“This landmark law will protect the Welsh way of delivering public services – through partnership between government, unions and employers. In Wales we know that is the best way to deliver quality public services. It benefits both the public, their services and our public service workforce.
“The UK government’s anti-union law was an attack on our ability to work together for solutions that prevent major disputes in the Welsh public sector. At the same time, they have consistently attempted to undermine the devolution settlement brought about by two referendum votes in Wales.
“The Wales TUC will oppose any underhand attempts by the UK government to undermine democratic devolution in Wales and will ensure that this Welsh law supports the Welsh way of working for the good of our public services.”