Trade Union Bill update
The Trade Union Bill completed the committee stage in the House of Commons on 27 October 2015. According to the government, the aim of the Bill is to reform aspects of law relating to industrial action, picketing and trade union governance.
The main areas covered by the Trade Union Bill include:
Changes to industrial action ballots
Including a requirement that at least 50% of those voting, vote in favour of industrial action and an additional requirement that 40% of eligible voters vote in favour where the proposed industrial action takes place in an “important public services” which includes for example; health services, some schools and transport services.
Trade unions will have to give 14 days’ notice (rather than the 7 days required under the present system) of any proposed industrial action and the action must take place within 4 months of the ballot.
Supervision of picketing
This includes a requirement for the union to nominate a supervisor who is ‘familiar’ with the industrial action codes. The supervisor will have to be provided with a letter from the union authorising the supervisor to act. This must be available for inspection by the Police and the employer. There will be rules requiring the supervisor to attend any picket line (or be able to attend at short notice) and to be identifiable through wearing an arm-band or similar.
As we have previously reported in our article ‘trade union bill not backed by evidence’ a number of leading academics in the field of employee relations have criticised the Bill stating that it is not backed by evidence.
We understand that there are no longer plans to require trade unions to give employers advance notice of their plans for pickets and social media campaigns which had been considered early in the formulation of the bill.
The government considers that the legislation will cover the whole of Great Britain and is therefore not a matter for the Scottish Parliament or the National Assembly for Wales. However, the Scottish government have requested that Scotland be excluded from the Trade Union Bill because it considers that it will “undermine the effective engagement of trade unions across Scottish workplaces and in particular in the Scottish public sector”. The Trade Union Bill has also been criticised by the Joint Council for Wales which represents public sector employees in Wales.
It will be interesting to watch the progress of this Bill as it progresses through the Houses of Parliament. We will keep you up to date with developments and their implications for employers.
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