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East Midlands Chamber News

Chamber Reflects on Trades Union Bill

Striking Teachers (CC BY 2.0 Roger Blackwell)New laws to toughen up the rules on strike action will be unveiled by Government today.

The Trades Union Bill – which Prime Minister David Cameron proposed in the post-election Queen’s Speech in May – will propose minimum turnouts in strike ballots, time limits on mandates for industrial action and changes to political levies.

Under the proposed shake-up, strikes affecting core public services - such as health, transport, fire services or schools - would need the support of at least 40% of eligible union members to go ahead. There would also need to be a minimum 50% turnout for strike ballots to be valid, and time limits would be placed on a mandate for industrial action following a ballot.

The bill will also look to introduce the removal of current restrictions on using agency workers to cover for strikers, along with efforts to tackle the intimidation of non-striking workers.

Chris Hobson, Director of Policy at East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “The withdrawal of labour has always been a valid last resort in fighting for improved working conditions and pay.

“The UK has a strong track record when it comes to legislation supporting the rights of workers and in the current economic climate, strikes can have a damaging effect on business confidence, which is critical to sustaining the momentum the UK’s economy has built up.

“Businesses and the general public depend on public services, so the right to strike should be exercised with great restraint. Higher thresholds should apply when a strike could put people at risk or affect the ability of large numbers of people to go about their day-to-day business and earn a living.

“It can’t be right that industrial action can be called based on a ballot where a very small percentage of those eligible to vote voted in favour of it, nor that it can come two years after a ballot has taken place, as we’ve seen with recent strikes in the UK.

“Businesses will see the proposed bill as a sensible piece of legislation which balances the rights of those wishing to withhold their labour against the rights of those who rely on access to essential services.”