The CIPD is recommending possible legislation requiring parties to public service disputes to enter an arbitration process prior to industrial action, with extreme measure including a blanket ban on certain strikes.
However, the report, which was written by employee relations adviser Mike Emmott, says the new rules can be avoided through building public sector leadership and management skills.
The paper highlights research from the CIPD’s quarterly Employee Outlook survey series, which shows:
Low levels of trust and confidence among public sector employees in senior management teams – 16% of public sector employees say they trust their senior leaders
54% of public sector staff agree most people today are not willing to lose pay by going on strike, compared to 47% in the private sector
More than four in ten employees are in favour of banning public sector workers involved in the delivery of essential services from striking
Responding to the CIPD’s call for the government to consider banning walk outs of workers in essential public services, Thomas Player, partner at international law firm Eversheds comments:
“In limited circumstances, there is already a ban on strikes in some essential services, for example, in the armed forces and the police. In addition, public sector prison officers have entered into an agreement with the Prisons Service not to strike.
“Putting to one side the obvious employee relations ramifications of extending a no-strike ban to other essential public services, there are legal risks associated with such a move. The European Convention of Human Rights provides for a right to freedom of association, including the right to join a trade union. Recent decisions from the European Court of Human Rights suggest that freedom of assembly may extend to include the right to strike. However, it should be noted that the right to freedom of assembly is not absolute; the Convention provides that the right can be restricted, for example, in the interests of public safety and health. In addition, the armed forces, police and some civil servants are excluded altogether.
“Unfortunately, very little guidance exists as to how these rights can be lawfully restricted, such as curtailing the right to strike. Therefore if the government were to seek to introduce further restrictions to the right to strike in essential public services, in light of the Convention rights that apply in the UK, it is probable that such changes would be vehemently opposed by the major public sector trade unions and would be likely to come up against legal pitfalls, including a European legal challenge.”