2016 has been a turbulent year and it seems to be going out with
a bang, in what some have dubbed a "winter of
discontent". According to recent BBC analysis, in the first 10
months of the year 218,300 working days were lost to industrial
action. We've seen a week of industrial action from rail
workers and postal workers, and airlines are also anticipating
disruption over the festive period. It's been reported that
Weetabix employees have voted to strike in the new year, so it
doesn't look things are going to slow down.
This is in a year where the Government amended trade union
legislation to increase ballot thresholds, introduce new
information and timing requirements in relation to industrial
action, and impose legal requirements on unions for the supervision
of picketing. However, the key provisions of the Trade Union Act
2016 have not come into force as yet and the Government has not set
out any specific timetable for implementation.
Current legislation in force provides that industrial action
will be unlawful unless at least 50% of trade union members who
responded to the ballot voted in favour of the action. When the
relevant provision of the new Act is brought into force, in
addition to a majority being in favour of the action, unions will
be required to show that at least 50% of all eligible members have
Notwithstanding the new legislation, transport minister, Chris
Grayling, and a number of other Tory backbenchers, have called for
additional anti-strike laws. It's not clear what such new laws
would actually entail but Downing Street has been quick to distance
itself from the calls, instead putting its faith in the power of
negotiation and stressing that Parliament has already passed
legislation to provide people with better protection from
undemocratic industrial action. It looks like ACAS, the
organisation devoted to preventing and resolving employment
disputes, is going to be having a very merry Christmas.
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