The Government Announces Changes to Industrial Action

The government has recently published a draft Trade Union Bill which contains a reform on strike balloting laws.

The key issues within the bill are:

  • There must be at least a 50% turnout in those eligible to vote before industrial action can be voted on;
  • There must be at least a 40% supporting vote for industrial action to take place for “important public services” i.e. fire, health, education, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning;
  • The wording on the ballot paper will need to be more specific, including more a more detailed indication of the of the industrial action, the types of industrial action proposed (if not striking) and when the action is expected to take place;
  • Notification of a strike must be provided to the employer 14 days in advance instead of 7;
  • Industrial action mandates will expire four months after the date of the ballot;
  • That the ‘automatic opt-in’ which gave political donations from union subscription fees is banned.

The three consultation papers which were released with the bill also include proposals to lift the ban on employers using agency workers to provide cover during strike periods and to provide greater protection from ‘intimidation’ to non-striking individuals.

So what does this mean for the employee? Understandably there has been some strong debate on the matter. Harriet Harmen, acting leader of the Labour Party stated the bill is “attacking the right of working people to have a say on their pay and conditions”. However the recent strike on London Underground shows us that industrial action can have serious repercussions, with thousands of individuals and businesses suffering as a result.

The difficulty the Government faces is striking a balance between the rights of the working people and business. It will be interesting to see what is decided after the consultations close on 9th September 2015.

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