The government is planning the biggest ever shake up of trade union laws with the introduction of the Trade Union Bill. The Bill is expected to introduce greater restrictions and requirements on trade unions when these are planning to carry out industrial action. The key features of the Bill are as follows:
The Trade Union Bill will increase the turnout threshold that ballots require before any industrial action can take place. A minimum turnout of at least 50% of the trade union members will be required for any action based on the ballot to be lawful. For industrial action to take place, a simple majority of these 50% will be required.
A consultation has also been launched on plans to introduce a 40% support requirement for important public sectors alongside the minimum turnout threshold. This will mean that the support of 40% of those who are entitled to vote will apply in six sectors: fire; health; education; transport; border security and nuclear decommissioning.
Currently, the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 makes it unlawful for an employment business, or what is commonly termed as an ‘employment agency’, to provide agency workers to cover the duties of an employee who is taking part in industrial action. A consultation has been issued to seek views on removing this regulation to allow employers to hire agency workers to cover the roles of striking workers or to replace workers who have been transferred to cover the duties of the worker on strike.
The Bill will introduce a time limit on ballots so that these are required to be carried out within 4 months of any industrial action which relies on this vote. If the industrial action will take place more than 4 months after the ballot was held, a new one will have to take place.
The Bill also extends the notice to be given to employers by unions before the industrial action takes place from seven days’ notice to a minimum of two weeks’ notice.
Picketing, where striking workers stand outside the place of work and persuade others to respect the picket line and not enter the workplace, is currently a civil offence if the action becomes threatening or intimidating. It is proposed to make unlawful picketing a criminal offence and to offer new protection for workers who are unwilling to strike.
Other key features
For further clarification on the effects of the Trade Union Bill contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.
- To introduce a requirement for the ballot paper to have a clear description of the trade dispute and any industrial action planned
- To improve transparency of political funding from trade union subscription fees, including an ‘opt-in’ procedure