Trade unions reportedly have more power than ever before. A new report claims that rules governing industrial action need to be revised as the balance of power has shifted in favor of trade unions.

This report comes ahead of the TUC conference and claims that the legal balance between trade unions, union members and employers no longer reflects the low union membership in most sectors.

A strike can go ahead with complete justification with only a small minority of the trade union members participating or even voting in favor of planned protests. This has come to light after British Airways staff began strikes after only 31% of unionised staff actually voted to reject BA’s pay offer.

Policy Exchange is calling for new legislation requiring that a majority of employees in the balloted workplace need to vote, or that a minimum of 40% of the trade unionised workforce vote in favor of strike action, in addition to a majority of the votes cast.

It also suggest that employers should be permitted use of agency staff to carry out the duties of staff who are striking, limiting the damage companies and the public may face due to ongoing industrial action.. Additionally, the Government should reduce the period of protection from unfair dismissal during a strike, for example from 12 weeks back to eight weeks.

Andrew Lilico, chief economist at Policy Exchange and co-author of the report, said: “The existing framework for industrial relations is out of kilter with the realities of the makeup of the modern workforce and the relationship between employers and employees.

“There are some specific reforms that should be made with regards to rebalancing the power between trade unions, workers and employers. Particularly important ones include requiring that ballots identify a specific grievance and authorise a particular set of industrial action allowing more use of agency staff, and investigating whether unions are monopolies in respect of their provision of services to workers.”

The report was welcomed by employers’ body the CBI, but Sarah Veale, head of equalities and employment rights at the TUC, dismissed it as “a crude attack on basic workplace rights and a charter for bad bosses everywhere”.

“What these right-wing policy wonks in their nostalgia for the divisive years of Mrs Thatcher don’t understand is that unions do not just benefit their members, but employers and wider society too,” she said.
“If they got out a bit more they would find that unions give employees a voice, deal with problems before they turn into disputes or end up in tribunals, and allow change to be negotiated.”