The Government proposes changes to the laws on strike action
On 27 May 2015 the Queen’s Speech confirmed plans to tighten the law on public sector strikes. It was confirmed that the Trade Unions Bill will be brought forward to implement the changes proposed by Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who sees such changes as a government priority.
The Government wants to tighten the rules on when a strike can be held to reduce the problems strikes cause to other members of the public going about their working lives.
In order to achieve this, the Government is proposing that a 50% turnout threshold will be introduced for all ballots on industrial action. In addition, 40% of eligible voters must back action for strikes in core public services (being health, transport, fire services or schools). This essentially means that 80% of those who vote, must vote in favour of the strike for it to be held.
An additional point worth noting is that temporary workers will be permitted to cover striking staff as the Government also wants to tackle intimidation to non-striking workers.
The unions have raised concerns that they will be unable to achieve the 50% threshold of votes on the basis that postal ballots in the public sector rarely achieve a high turn out. It is the view of the unions that the Government’s proposed changes are an attack on a worker’s fundamental human right to withdraw their labour. For now, we shall have to wait and see how the Bill progresses.