Government defends plans to tighten rules on strike ballots

Posted on July 21, 2015

The Government has defended plans to restrict the rules on strike ballots after unions said they would make legal strikes almost impossible. Current rules state that strike action can be taken if there is a simple majority of those that take part in a ballot, the BBC reports. However new proposals under the Trade Union Bill would impose a minimum 50% turnout – and public sector strikes would need the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote.

The matter was brought up at Prime Minister’s Questions with acting Labour leader Harriet Harman accusing David Cameron of “attacking the right of working people to have a say on their pay and conditions“. Mr Cameron said that the public were behind Conservative efforts to ensure strikes were only called as “a last resort” and “to sort this out for working families”.

The Trade Union Bill, which began its journey into law by being presented into the Commons on Wednesday, represents the biggest shake-up in the rules on industrial action in 30 years. The new laws would force unions to give employers 14 days’ notice of strike action and allow them to bring in agency staff to cover for striking workers. The legislation could also cut the amount of money unions have to mount campaigns – or donate to parties such as Labour – with members actively having to “opt in” to pay the so-called political levy, which is currently automatic unless members opt-out.
But proposals to ban picket lines of more than six people appear to have been dropped. It will be made an offence not to have a named individual supervising a picket line. The legislation also includes efforts to tackle “intimidation” of non-striking workers.

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