Monday, 2 September 2013

Secret Cabinet papers from May 1983 - discussions about "how to prevent or deter strikes"



COpy NO 27


LIMITED CIRCULATION ANNEX CC(83) 17th Conclusions, Minute 4
Tuesday 10 May 1983 at 11.00 am

The Cabinet considered a memorandum by the Secretary of State for
Employment (C(83) 16) on trade union legislation.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EMPLOYMENT said that the Ministerial Committee on Economic Strategy had agreed at its meeting on 28 April 1983
(E(83) 4th Meeting) on proposals relating to trade union elections and
pre-strike ballots but had left over for further consideration what action should be taken in relation to trade unions' political funds and political
levies and to deter or prevent strikes in essential services.  So far as pOlitical funds were concerned, he proposed that any such fund established by a trade union must be authorised by a ballot of members not simply on
a once-for-all basis as under present legislation but every ten years.
In relation to the other outstanding matters, there had been a discussion with other Ministers closely concerned under the Prime Minister's
chairmanship and proposals had been worked out for approval by the Cabinet.

In the case of the political levy it was proposed that the Government's position should be made known on the following lines: that consultations on the Green Paper had confirmed that there was widespread disquiet about how the right of individual trade union members not to pay the political levy operated in practice through the system of contracting out; he therefore intended to invite the Trades Union Congress to discuss the steps which the trade unions themselves could take to ensure that individual members were freel, and effectively able to decide for themselves whether or not to pay the political levy. In the event that
the trade unions were not willing to take such steps, the Government would
be prepared to introduce measures to guarantee the free and effective right of choice.

In the case of strikes in essential services he proposed that the Government's attitude should be made known on the following lines: that essential services would be affected by the proposal to remove immunity
in the absence of pre-strike ballots~ and that the Government would consult further about the need for industrial relations in specified essential services to be governed by adequate procedural agreements, breach of
which would deprive industrial action of immunity.


I  t

THE PRIME MINISTER, summing up the discussion, said that the Cabinet agreed that the Government's policy relating to trade unions' political funds and political levies, and to strikes in essential services should be made known, in the course of the General Election campaign, on the lines set out by the Secretary of State for Employment.  If in relation to the political levy the question was raised whether the statement of
·policymeant that the Government would, if necessary, be prepared in
the next Parliament to replace contracting out by contracting in, the
answer should be in the affirmative. The policy statement had been formulated in such a way that it would not be possible for the Opposition
in the next Parliament to argue that the incoming Government did not have
a mandate, if it so wished, to put an end to the system of contracting out.

The Cabinet -

Took note with approval of the Prime Minister's summing up of their discussion.

Cabinet Office

12 May 1983