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Government reforms (1): Trade union bill

mock-employment-tribunalWhat do we already know?

We updated you in our June Newsflash Queen’s Speech that the Government announced in the Queen’s Speech plans to implement its manifesto promise of trade union reform.

What’s new?

The Government has published its Trade Union Bill (available here) and three consultation papers, setting out significant and controversial proposals regarding strike laws and trade union funding.

The proposals are in response to a number of strikes in recent years which have arguably caused significant disruption despite, on the figures, not being supported by a majority of the particular workforce. This situation has arisen because a lawful strike needs only the support of a majority of the workers voting, meaning that very low turnouts of voting workers can still result in legitimate industrial action.

The Trade Union Bill includes:

The Government will also consult on a number of its proposed measures including:

The consultations run until 9 September 2015.

The Bill is unlikely to become law before Spring 2016.

Comment: It remains to be seen whether these reforms will lead to a reduction in strikes, but they are likely to make more strikes unlawful. Indeed, UNITE has indicated this week that it has passed a motion to remove from its rule book the words caveating strike action, “so far as may be lawful”. Although this may be just fighting talk, employers will need to remain vigilant to potentially unlawful activity.

Employers should also watch out for unions adopting other methods of protest and collective action, for example campaigning with or without the use of social media or encouraging members to bring grievances, collective or otherwise.

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