The Trade Union Act 2016 was passed in May 2016 but given that
2017 started with a series of strikes affecting both the public and
private sectors, many will wonder what difference the new Act has
The answer is that whilst the Act has been passed, not many of
its provisions have been brought into force yet.
The most significant change introduced by the Act is to increase
the threshold of votes required for a valid ballot so that:
not just a majority of those voting, but a majority (50%) of
all eligible members must vote to make industrial action valid
where the workers are involved in 'important public
services', then in addition to the requirement that 50% of all
eligible members must have voted, at least 40% of the total overall
membership eligible to vote in that ballot must have voted in
favour of the industrial action as well – which is a much
But when will these changes start to have an impact?
Newly published draft regulations which are likely to be
implemented on 1 March 2017, set out what 'important public
services' will cover, including the health, fire, transport,
education and border security sectors. It seems likely that
the provisions relating to general balloting rules and the reforms
under the Act will also be introduced on 1 March 2017, but this is
Southern Rail commuters will be pleased to note that passenger
railway services will be covered by the definition of
"important public services", so that in future, it may be
more difficult for railway workers to take industrial action which
requires a new ballot, although in a recent ballot by one of the
rail unions involved in the Southern rail strike (Aslef) 630 out of
the 937 members issued with ballot papers voted in favour , which
would mean that the ballot would still have been lawful even if the
new, more stringent balloting rules had been in force. In
contrast, however, it would appear that the recent strikes on the
London Underground might not have been able to go ahead according
to various reports if the 50% minimum turnout rule had been in
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