New Rules for Trade Unions to Take Industrial Action
New legislation comes into force on 1 March 2017 which will reform the rules on when trade unions can take industrial action.
The notice that must be given to employers of proposed industrial action will be increased from seven to 14 days before a vote can take place. Then at least 50% of eligible members must participate in the vote itself. This is in addition to the current requirement that a majority of those voting must support the action. If those balloted perform important public services in the education, fire, health, transport and border security then at least 40% of those eligible to vote must approve the industrial action.
Currently industrial action must take place within four weeks of the ballot approving it. The new legislation changes this and provides that it must take place within six months and can be extended by up to a further three months by agreement.
It is not thought that the new thresholds will necessarily result in fewer strikes, despite that being the government’s intention. The strikes that have taken place recently on the railways and in the NHS have involved groups who would have met the new threshold requirements had they already been in force. Traditionally unions only tend to proceed with campaigns when they are confident that a sufficient volume of their members will support the ballot.
It therefore remains to be seen what exactly the impact of the new rules will be.