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The Trade Union Bill

The Trade Union Bill is causing a stir in Parliament with its planned introduction of new reforms to strike laws.

What has happened?

The Department of Business Innovation and Skill issued a press release on the new Bill today (Wednesday 15 July).

The Government says the Bill would seek to balance the right to strike more fairly with the right of people to go about their daily lives and work uninterrupted.

If passed, the new Bill will see the following policies being made into law:

Industrial action ballots: There will be a 50% turnout requirement for a valid ballot.

Vital public services: There will be an additional requirement for unions in vital public sectors (health, education, fire, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning) who will need 40% support for a strike from all those members eligible to vote.

Transparency: The Bill is also intended to increase transparency on union practices with the following reforms:

  • Ensure mandates are always recent by setting a four-month time limit for strikes;
  • Requiring clear descriptions on ballot papers of the proposed action so that members are clear about what they are voting for;
  • Greater scrutiny over taxpayer-funded roles such as trade union representatives;
  • To follow in the footsteps of Northern Ireland by creating a transparent trade union subscription process allowing members to make an active choice of paying into political funds;
  • Putting in place safeguards to protect non-striking members from fear of intimidation when going about their business.

What happens next?

The new Bill has yet to be published but goes towards a commitment made in the Conservatives’ manifesto.

A consultation also opened today (Wednesday) on the introduction of the 40% threshold (as above), reforming the rules and code of practice on picketing and protests linked to industrial disputes and the repeal of a ban on the use of agency workers at times of industrial action.

The consultation will close on 9 September 2015.

How can Ward Hadaway help?

We will keep you informed as to the progress of the Trade Union Bill.

In the meantime, for more information on the proposals, assistance in making representations as part of the consultation process or further details on any of the issues raised in this update, please get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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