Strike law high on new government’s agenda

The new Business Secretary has confirmed the Conservatives’ commitment to change the law around strike action.

In the run-up to the 7 May general election, in which it won an overall majority, the party’s manifesto said that strikes should only take place as the result of a ballot “in which at least half the workforce has voted. This turnout threshold will be an important and fair step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.

“We will, in addition, tackle the disproportionate impact of strikes in essential public services by introducing a tougher threshold in health, education, fire and transport. Industrial action in these essential services would require the support of at least 40 per cent of all those entitled to take part in strike ballots – as well as a majority of those who actually turn out to vote.”

The party also said it planned to repeal restrictions banning employers from hiring agency staff to provide essential cover during strikes and ensure strikes could not be called on the basis of ballots that took place years previously.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 16 May, new Business Secretary Sajid Javid said that reforming strike laws would be a priority for the government. He added: “By increasing the thresholds it will certainly increase the hurdles that need to be crossed, but that’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady criticised the proposed changes, saying they would make legal strikes “close to impossible”. She added: “This is a government not so much on the side of hard-working people but Britain’s worst bosses – those who want their staff to be on zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it.”

As the law in this area continues to evolve, Palmers can provide expert advice to businesses and organisations facing industrial action, such as strikes or working to rule, and on the options available to help resolve disputes as quickly and constructively as possible.

For tailored advice on the law surrounding industrial action, or any other employment law matter, please visit our website or contact Lara Murray or Charlotte Woolven-Brown.