04 May 2016 - Post by:Thomas Twitchett
With the junior doctors strike and the wave of other public sector strikes dominating the news of late, thoughts may inevitably turn to the controversial Trade Union Bill that has been making its way through Parliament.
Well, having navigated its way through the final Parliamentary hurdle at breakneck speed, the Bill received Royal Assent yesterday afternoon. It now becomes the Trade Union Act and we await formal confirmation of the date it comes into force.
So what will change?
Trade union legislation was already a minefield for trade unions that wanted to call lawful industrial action. The Trade Union Act will now raise that bar even higher. A strike will still need a majority of votes in favour, but it won’t be able to go ahead unless there’s also a 50% turn-out of eligible members. Unions will also need a 40% “yes” vote from amongst all eligible members if the strike relates to “important public services” (such as health, education, fire and transport services).
Combine this with stricter notification rules, a compressed six-month strike timetable and tighter controls on picketing – regardless of recent Government sweeteners on key issues such as e-voting – the Act will undoubtedly make life more difficult for unions and lawful strike action significantly harder to organise.
Good news for unionised employers and for Joe Public inconvenienced in daily life. But perhaps we will now see trade unions using alternative means to escalate disputes or even challenging this legislation in the courts? Where there’s a will there’s a way, so they say.