New Strike Laws An ‘Attack on Workers’ Rights’

A new Trade Union Bill will require a 50 per cent turnout in strike ballots and 40 per cent of support in disputes in health, education, fire, transport, border security and energy sectors.

Sky News reports that there will also be a four-month time limit for industrial action, following a teachers’ strike that relied on a two-year old ballot, and safeguards to ensure non-strikers can go to work without intimidation.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Trade unions have a constructive role to play in representing their members’ interests, but our one nation government will balance their rights with those of working people and business.

“These changes are being introduced so that strikes only happen when a clear majority of those entitled to vote have done so and all other possibilities have been explored.”

But unions are already threatening more disruption on the tube and anti-austerity strikes against the Budget.

In a bitter war of words, one union leader has claimed the anti-strike laws smack of Nazi Germany.

Others have threatened civil disobedience.

But TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This Bill is an unnecessary attack on workers’ rights and civil liberties that will shift the balance of power in the workplace.

“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.”

The legislation is backed by employers, however.

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said: “We’re glad the Government has brought forward this Bill, as the CBI has long called for modernisation of our outdated industrial relations laws to better reflect today’s workforce and current workplace practices.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