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Posted by on in Employment Law
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Union Pave Way For Illegal Strikes

Unite have responded to the government’s proposal of changing the way that employees can legally strike by removing the clause preventing illegal striking from their rules.

The move comes following new plans to attempt to prevent crippling strikes in the Trade Unions Bill.

Proposals in Trade Unions Bill

Under said bill, the government plans to introduce a ban on strike action in key services that fail to receive at least a 50% turnout in ballots. Furthermore, the amendments will state that the support of at least 40% of those entitled to vote for a strike to go ahead. The rules will be even stricter on vital public services to prevent key services such as fire services and ambulances from taking industrial action.

The stance on industrial action looks to defend employers from strikes, allowing them to employ temporary staff to cover for those employers wishing to take legal action. Had the rules been in place in the last few years around two-thirds of all strikes would have been deemed illegal. Intimidation tactics when on strike and historical issues will also be prevented by the new policy. Union members will have to opt in if they want to pay a political levy as part of their fees instead of having to opt out under the new policies which looks to limit the power of trade unions.

Response to the Government Proposals

The proposed legislation has been met with mixed response by experts with trade unions criticising the proposals. The general secretary of Unite, in response to the changes, amended the organisation’s constitution to stating that members of the trade union should not be forced to obey ‘oppressive’ legislation.

Speaking at the annual conference he said: “‘Unite is not going to see itself rendered toothless by passively submitting to unjust laws.

“We are ready for the fight and we will, I believe, find allies among everyone who cares for freedom and democracy.”

According to The Times members approved removing the words ‘so far as may be lawful’ from the rules governing at the annual conference.

Other trade unions such as Unison have also stated that they will also have to consider if they should permit illegal strikes despite the government’s proposals.

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

"These changes are being introduced so that strikes can only happen when a clear majority of those entitled to vote have done so and all other possibilities have been explored," the minister said.

Supported by Industry

British Chambers of Commerce policy and external affairs executive director Dr Adam Marshall said the right to strike "must be exercised with the greatest restraint."

"Businesses will see this as a sensible piece of legislation that carefully balances the rights of those wishing to withhold their labour, against the rights of those who rely on access to essential services.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general Katja Hall said the bill was "an important, but a fair step to ensure that strikes have the clear support of the workforce." Although some strikes could be deemed illegal, there are still legal protections for members of staff wishing to take part in industrial action.

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