Press release

New legislation to make strike laws fair for working people

The government introduces new reforms to strengthen strike laws.

The government today (15 July 2015) introduces new reforms to strengthen strike laws, ensuring the right to strike is fairly balanced with the right of people to be able to go about their daily lives and work.

Under the current situation, a small minority of trade union members can fundamentally disrupt the lives of millions of commuters, parents, workers and employers at short notice – without clear support. The Trade Union Bill will address this imbalance by introducing:

  • a 50% threshold for ballot turn-out
  • an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all members eligible to vote in the key health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning sectors – including the Border Force

This will ensure strikes are the result of a clear and positive democratic mandate from union members: upholding the right to strike while reducing disruption to millions of people.

The Trade Union Bill will also improve union practices and increase transparency by:

  • setting a 4 month time limit for industrial action so that mandates are always recent
  • requiring a clear description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear what they are voting for
  • greater scrutiny and controls over taxpayer-funded subsidies to trade unions (so-called ‘facility time’), such as full-time trade union representatives
  • creating a transparent process for trade union subscriptions that allows members to make an active choice of paying into political funds, as is already the case in Northern Ireland, to protect union members from misleading marketing practices
  • it will also put in place safeguards to ensure non-striking members of a workforce are able to go about their business without fear of intimidation

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said:

Trade unions have a constructive role to play in representing their members’ interests but our one nation government will balance their rights with those of working people and business.

These changes are being introduced so that strikes only happen when a clear majority of those entitled to vote have done so and all other possibilities have been explored.

This will deliver a key commitment we made in our manifesto.

Minister for Trade Unions Nick Boles said:

People have the right to expect that services on which they and their families rely are not going to be disrupted at short notice by strikes that have the support of only a small proportion of union members.

These are sensible and fair reforms that balance the right to strike with the right of millions of people to go about their daily lives without undue disruption.

The bill also seeks to enhance the regulatory role of the Certification Officer to ensure robust and effective regulation of trade unions.

Consultations on the proposed introduction of a 40% threshold for important public sectors; reforming and modernising the rules and code of practice on picketing and protests linked to industrial disputes, and for the repeal of a ban on the use of agency workers open today and will be open until 9 September 2015.