Government reforms (3): Trade union bill

government reforms - elizabeth towerWhat do we already know?

We updated you in our July 2015 Newsletter Government reforms (1): Trade union bill on the Government’s proposed package of Trade Union reforms. The Trade Union Bill 2015-16 is likely to become law in 2016 bringing about changes to the balloting rules for industrial action and measures on picketing, facility time and political donations as well as additional powers for the Certification Officer.

What’s new?

The House of Lords has voted in favour of the following ‘softening’ amendments:

  • Electronic ballots. New introductions:
    • requiring the Secretary of State to devise a strategy for the rollout of secure electronic balloting; and
    • permitting the use of pilot schemes to inform and design the implementation of electronic balloting before it is rolled out across union strike ballots.
  • Workers excluded from the new 40% threshold for ballots in important public services if the union “reasonably believes” that they are not “normally engaged in the provision of important public services” at the time of the ballot.
  • Ballot papers only need to set out a “summary” of the dispute rather than a “reasonably detailed indication”.
  • The proposal to increase the notice period for industrial action from seven to 14 days is to be modified so that a seven-day notice can be used with employer agreement.
  • The requirement for a picket supervisor to wear a badge or armband to identify him/herself has been changed to requiring the supervisor to simply wear ‘something’ to be readily identifiable.
  • A ballot in favour of industrial action would remain valid for six months, or up to nine months if the employer agrees.
  • New trade union members will need to opt in to contribute to the union’s political fund, rather than opt out.
  • Check-off (a system whereby union membership payments are deducted from union members’ salaries by their employers and paid over to unions) is to remain available in the public sector as long as the trade unions meet the cost of its provision.

We will update you fully on the Bill and its implications once it becomes law, expected later this year.