Press release

New reforms will tackle the ‘endless’ threat of strike action

The Trade Union Bill receives its second reading in the House of Commons.

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Reforms to end unjustified disruption to working people’s daily lives will be debated in the House of Commons for the first time today (14 September 2015).

The Trade Union Bill will receive its second reading in Parliament. The bill proposes a time limit on ballots so that mandates for industrial action are always recent.

Under current laws, the ongoing London Underground and First Great Western industrial action could carry on for years.

Currently there are a number of live mandates for industrial action that are more than 2 years old. These include:

  • the NUT ballots in 2011 and 2012 have resulted in 8 national and regional strikes. The last strike, in July 2014, which also included support staff from other unions, closed around a fifth of schools
  • an FBU 2013 ballot has resulted in 49 strikes over a 2 year period

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said:

This is a one nation government acting in the interests of the whole country and these reforms will stop the ‘endless’ threat of strike action hanging over hardworking people.

Trade unions play an important role and deserve our respect. But when working people’s lives are being disrupted by strike action, it is only fair that this happens as a result of a contemporary mandate that is supported by the majority of union members.

Other measures in the bill will ensure strikes only happen as a result of a clear, positive decision by those entitled to vote, meaning working people know they can get on with their lives without unjustified disruption.

These modernising reforms will update industrial action law, meaning the right to strike is fairly balanced with the right of people to be able to go about their daily lives and work.

Employment Minister Nick Boles said:

Working people need to know they can get on with their lives without unjustified disruption.

These modernising reforms will ensure strikes only happen as a result of a clear, positive and recent decision by those entitled to vote.

Reforms in the bill include:

  • 50% threshold for ballot turn-out in all industrial action votes
  • 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
  • the requirement of 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

The bill also seeks to:

  • introduce greater scrutiny and control over taxpayer-funded subsidies to trade unions (so-called ‘facility time’), such as full-time trade union representatives
  • create 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, protecting union members from misleading marketing practices
  • enhance the regulatory role of the Certification Officer to ensure robust and effective regulation of trade unions

Notes to editors:

  1. The Trade Union Bill will apply to trade unions and union members in England, Wales and Scotland.
  2. The government will take forward secondary legislation to remove the current ban on employers using temporary workers to replace staff taking part in industrial action.
  3. The practice of “check off”, where trade union members’ subscriptions are administered via payroll, will be ended in the public sector. Amendments to the Trade Union Bill for this to happen will be included in due course.
Published 14 September 2015