Conservatives crack down on unions’ rights to strike

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The government has today launched the Trade Union Bill, designed to tighten the rules on strike action by requiring a 50 percent turnout and the support of 40 percent of those eligible to vote.

The Conservatives’ crackdown will also criminalise picketing and allow employers to hire temporary staff to break the strike.

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director-general said:

“We’re glad the Government has brought forward this Bill, as the CBI has long called for modernisation of our outdated industrial relations laws to better reflect today’s workforce and current workplace practices.

“The introduction of thresholds is an important, but fair, step to ensure that strikes have the clear support of the workforce.

“Placing time limits on ballot mandates is an important measure to ensure industrial action is limited to the original dispute and not extended to other matters.

“We welcome the consultation on modernising picketing rules.  Intimidation or harassment of individuals is never acceptable – and we want to see the current Code of Practice put on a statutory footing and penalties increased to drive out bad behaviour.”

The double threshold applies to union members in core public services including education, health, transport, fire, border security and energy sectors.

Unions are angered by the plans, accusing the government of attacking workers’ rights.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Getting a pay rise or defending terms and conditions will become far harder for working people. Even when ballots meet the government’s new thresholds, employers will soon be able to break strikes by bringing in agency workers.

“If ministers were really interested in improving workplace democracy they would commit to online balloting. However, they would rather silence protests against their cuts to children’s centres, libraries and social care services.

“These new restrictions on facility time will make it more much difficult for trade unions to solve problems at work before they escalate into disputes.

“Making it a criminal offence for seven people to be on a picket line is a waste of police time and not something you would expect in a country with a proud tradition of liberty.”

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said:

“The unintended consequence of the parts of the Bill dealing with strike action will be to seriously damage industrial relations.

“When workers jump through the draconian hurdles required for their vote for strike action to be lawful employers can ignore the will of their own workers. Workers will have to give an employer 14 days’ notice of strike action. This is more than enough time for employers to legally hire another workforce to break the strike.

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