Right to strike under threat (2017)

Wednesfield #HeartUnions

The Tories anti-union laws, incorporated in the Trade Union Act, including new undemocratic industrial action ballot thresholds came into force on March 1st 2017. Institute of Employment Rights new guide to the Trade Union Act.

feature for the Morning Star – this Act reveals the Tories’ true colours at a time it is attempting to recast itself as the “party of workers”. Regardless of what comes out of the Taylor Review or any other tokenistic nod towards workers’ rights heralded by the current administration, without repealing their Trade Union Act this government can make no substantial headway towards protecting vulnerable workers. They have already undermined the very goal they claim to seek in the Taylor Review – to prevent exploitation in the workplace.

And repeal is exactly what the IER is calling for. Our Manifesto for Labour Law has as one of its key recommendations the scrapping of this dangerous Act.

Elsewhere, unions promise to resist the new legislation and prevent it from silencing their members.

Trade Union Act 2016 Update by UNITE the union


Various provisions of the Trade Union Act 2016 brought into force on 1 March 2017. This includes the industrial action provisions for ballots opening on or after that date. A ballot is deemed to have “opened” on the first day when a voting paper is sent to any person entitled to vote in the ballot. Ballots which have already opened (including any that have closed) prior to 1 March 2017 are not subject to the new requirements, except for the action notice and picketing requirements (which will apply to all action notices served and pickets organised from 1 March 2017).

The industrial action changes do not apply to Northern Ireland or, of course, the Republic of Ireland.

This update has been created to provide activists with an overview of the new requirements, based upon the information currently available.

The government has already brought into force the requirement for the commissioning of a report to both Houses of Parliament on the delivery of secure methods of electronic balloting, which will be delivered by December 2017.

1. New industrial action requirements under the Trade Union Act

The new requirements, which take effect for Industrial Action ballots opening (and action notices served) on or after 1 March 2017, are:
Industrial action ballot thresholds (ballots opening on or after 1 March 2017):

– 50% turnout requirement (all ballots)
in all industrial action ballots, at least 50% of members entitled to vote must turn out to vote.
Members need to ensure they update the union with any address changes. Workplace reps need to encourage member participation, as a non-vote could have the impact of voting NO; and

– 40% support double threshold for ballots in ‘important public services’
where the majority of members entitled to vote in the ballot are ‘normally engaged’ in the delivery of ‘important public services’, at least 40% of those entitled to vote must vote YES to action.
This means if 50% of members in an ‘important public services’ ballot turnout to vote, 80% of them must vote in favour of action.
The ‘important public services’ are health, education, transport, fire, border security and nuclear decommissioning/management of radioactive waste (subject to implementation of Regulations defining the functions that will be covered – see point 2. below);

The voting paper (for all ballots opening on or after 1 March 2017):
(i) must include a ‘summary of the matter or matters in issue in the trade dispute to which the proposed industrial action relates’;

(ii) if it contains a question concerning action short of a strike, must specify ‘the type or types of industrial action….either in the question itself or elsewhere on the voting paper’; and

(iii) must indicate ‘the period or periods within which the industrial action or, as the case may be, each type of industrial action, is expected to take place’;

Information to be given to members and employers about the result of the ballot (for all ballots opening on or after 1 March 2017):
– must also include whether the 50% threshold was satisfied (all ballots) and whether the additional 40% threshold was satisfied (important public services);

Notice of industrial action (all action notices served on or after 1 March 2017 – including those for ballots under old rules):
– must be received by the employer by no later than the 14th day before the action is due to start;

The ballot mandate (for all ballots opening on or after 1 March 2017):
– will expire after six months (or, if agreed with the employer a longer period up to a total of nine months). But the current requirement that industrial action must start within 28 days of the close of the ballot will cease to apply; and

Picketing (all pickets organised on or following 1 March 2017 – including those for ballots under old rules):
– the union will have to appoint ‘picket supervisors’, who will be officials ‘or other members of the union who are familiar with any provision’ of the Code of Practice on Picketing’;

– the union or the picket supervisor must take reasonable steps to tell the police the picket supervisor’s name, where picketing will take place and how to contact the picket supervisor;

– the union must provide the picket supervisor with a letter saying that the picketing is approved by the union;

– the picket supervisor must show the approval letter to any person acting on the employer’s behalf as soon as reasonably practicable after being asked;

– the picket supervisor must either be present at the picket, or be readily contactable by the union and police, and able to attend at short notice; and

– whilst present at the picket, the picket supervisor must wear ‘..something that readily identifies [them] as such’.

2. ‘Important Public Services’ Regulations

Regulations have been passed covering five of the six ‘important public services’ (transport, health, fire, education and border security, but not nuclear decommissioning). They take effect from 1 March 2017.

The Regulations set out the functions in each IPS which the additional 40% support threshold will apply (where the majority of the ballot constituency (over 50%) is ‘normally engaged’ in the performance of those functions) as follows:-
*(the job examples listed are not exhaustive)

· local bus services in London (note not elsewhere)
Workers ‘normally engaged’ will include* Drivers, Engineers and Depot or Traffic Managers working on local bus services with one of more stops in Greater London;

· passenger railway services (including services for the carriage of passengers by railway or tramway, services for the maintenance of passenger trains or the network, signalling or controlling the operation of the network or station services essential to the safety of passenger services, but excluding the carriage of passengers by ‘heritage vehicles’).
Workers ‘normally engaged’ will include*:
A. Station despatch staff, safety and security staff, and station supervisors;
B. train drivers, guards and conductors responsible for train despatch, rail engineers and maintenance staff, and management and control staff including train crew and fleet rostering;
C. control room staff, signallers and signalling maintainers, infrastructure operators, incident and emergency response staff, and network maintenance

· civil air traffic control services (licenced air traffic controllers, air traffic control supervisors and unit managers* will be ‘normally engaged’);

· airport security services provided by workers at airports who control access to secure areas, screen persons entering secure areas, screen items or vehicles entering secure areas, search secure areas or patrol secure areas; and

· port security services provided by workers at ports who control access to secure areas, screen persons entering secure areas, screen items or vehicles entering secure areas, search secure areas or patrol secure areas.

· ambulance services (dealing with emergency calls, diagnosis or treatment in response to such a call or taking a person to a hospital or other place where further health services may be provided in response to such a call).
Workers ‘normally engaged’ will include* paramedics, call assessors, emergency dispatchers, emergency care assistants and emergency technicians;

· accident and emergency services in a hospital (will include* A&E doctors, nurses, receptionists and health care assistants);

· services provided in high dependency units and intensive care in a hospital (including* HDU and ICU doctors, nurses and health care assistants);

· psychiatric services provided in a hospital for conditions which require immediate attention to prevent serious injury, serious illness or loss of life (could include* psychiatrists, doctors and nurses); and

· obstetric and midwifery services provided in a hospital for conditions which require immediate attention to prevent serious injury, serious illness or loss

of life (could include* obstetricians, midwives, doctors, nurses and maternity support workers in maternity theatres).

· services provided by firefighters in extinguishing fires and protecting life and property in the event of fires (will include Airport and MOD firefighters); and

· services provided by fire and rescue personnel in dealing with and organising responses to calls (will include* control centre staff and managers);

Education of those under the age of 17:
· ‘teaching and other services’ provided by teachers, Head Teachers and Principals at a school, a ‘16-19 Academy’ or a Further Education College (except where services to persons of compulsory school age are not publicly funded);

Border security:
· examination by a Border Officer of persons arriving in or leaving the United Kingdom;

· examination by a Border Officer of goods imported to or exported (or to be exported) from the United Kingdom;

· patrol of the sea and other waterways by Border Officers;

· collection of intelligence by Border Officers; and

· direction or control of any of these functions by a Border Officer;

A draft Regulation has not yet been published for decommissioning of nuclear installation/management of radioactive waste.
The five passed IPS Regulations come into force on 1 March 2017 and will apply to relevant ballots opened (i.e. when a voting paper is sent to any person entitled to vote in the ballot) on and after 1 March – the same date as the other IA provisions.

3. Trade Union (Wales) Bill

The Welsh Assembly has introduced the Trade Union (Wales) Bill so as to dis-apply various provisions from the Trade Union Act so far as they apply to devolved Welsh public authorities. These include the 40% support double threshold for industrial action in important public services.


24-1-17 Chris Philp MP’s Private Member’s “Industrial Action (Protection of Critical National Services)” Bill is an attempt by an acknowledged Conservative government outrider to shackle trades unions still further. It was opposed in a very good speech by Labour MP Kevin Brenna, and the Bill was voted down by Labour MPs. https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-01-24/debates/E8DB8308-B063-485F-9207-2CC338208027/IndustrialAction(ProtectionOfCriticalNationalServices)

Policy passed at last September’s TUC Congress moved by the RMT amended by the FBU includes:

“Congress believes the General Council needs to convene an urgent conference of affiliates to provide a practical forum, including workshops, as to how to best coordinate our legal and industrial response to the Act in line with policy already set by Congress.”

“Congress should discuss all options for challenging the new legislation. This should include stepping up the campaign to scrap the Act and other anti-union legislation as well as the practical steps to be taken to support any unions and groups of workers threatened by this anti-worker legislation.”

In response to the TU Bill campaign by the TUC and trade unions, Government minister Nick Boles has announced concessions to:

ABANDON plans to ban union subscriptions via payroll (check-off), provided the union pays payment processing costs (as many already do).
CONCEDE safeguards against politicisation of the union regulator (Certification Officer) and reduce its costs to unions.
WATER DOWN plans to restrict union political funds. Changes will no longer apply to existing members, and costs and effort will be much reduced.
AGREE TO a review of online methods for strike ballots. This would help increase turnouts.
ADD SAFEGUARDS to a new power to cap union facility time. This could happen now only after at least 3 years research and negotiation.

This adds to concessions already made to:

DROP extreme measures to restrict protest, pickets and social media campaigns.
ABANDON plans to make everyone on a picket show personal data to the police, employers or anyone who asks for it.
SCALE BACK the double threshold for strike ballots in “important public services”, to avoid capturing hundreds of thousands of ancillary workers.
Make no mistake, there are still some very harmful proposals that could become law, but the bill that passed the Commons today was hugely reduced from what the government originally proposed – an amazing turnabout for a flagship bill at the start of a new parliament.

Next step is to see if the Lords will insist on points the government refused last night. And then there will be arguments to come on the mass of secondary regulations and codes of practice still to be published.

None of these positive changes would have happened without trade unionists and supporters uniting to mount a huge campaign. You and tens of thousands of others marched, emailed, signed petitions, held local events, joined consultations, told personal stories in a billboard campaign, and took part in the biggest ever mass lobby of MPs.

There’s more to do, but trade unionists and campaigners everywhere can feel justly proud today in what we’ve achieved so far.

In solidarity,
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary

The Government’s controversial trade union bill is going through its next stages in the House of Lords. The Lords has inflicted a triple blow to the government’s controversial Trade Union Bill.

Peers voted overwhelmingly for three amendments to the bill on:

electronic balloting,

facility time, and the

funds used by unions for political campaigning.

The government was heavily defeated on each vote, and will now be forced to rethink its plans when the bill returns to the Commons.

Read report from UNISON on the government’s defeat on the TU Bill

The first day of report stage was debated and we expect the second day to be in Mid-April.

On the issue of online voting for trade union ballots for industrial action, which the bill could easily permit, many Peers have been very vocal, unable to see why the Government should claim it’s not secure enough for unions, whilst the Conservative Party themselves feel able to use it to select their candidate for Mayor of London. Crossbencher Lord Adebowale spoke for many when he said: “If ever there was some evidence the intention of this Bill was perhaps not entirely honourable, it’s in the refusal to allow electronic balloting.”

The plan to end the payroll union subs collection system (check-off) in the public sector has proven unpopular with Peers who see it as undermining the government’s own localism agenda, by telling employers centrally what they can and can’t agree with their unions. These proposals attracted outspoken comments from a number of Conservative Peers in particular, with former Minister John Gummer (now Lord Deben) saying: “I do not think this is a proper way to behave. We ought to make it easy and simple for people to belong to a trade union.”

There was also great concern over plans to limit the time union reps can be given in the public sector to do their jobs. Former head of the civil service, now crossbencher Lord Kerslake drew on his experience at the top of public service management, saying the proposals “…seem to be quite extraordinarily centralising, and completely disproportionate.”

Amendments on all these proposals and more will be brought in the coming weeks. Ministers have already made a series of concessions to head off opposition – abandoning their more draconian regulations of pickets and social media campaigns, increasing notice periods for check-off changes, and removing the new double thresholds for strike ballots amongst ancillary public service workers in both the public and private sectors.

The biggest thing at the moment is probably to keep the spotlight trained on the bill by getting it exposed in the media and on social media channels. The government would like things to go quiet until after the next debates, but we aren’t going to let that happen.

Local activity:

We distributed Join a Union postcards and gave away hundreds of red carnations as part of the Love Unions campaign in Bilston & Wednesfield Feb 2016

Wednesfield Loves Unions

Wednesfield #HeartUnions

& Bilston Loves Unions too

Bilston Loves UNIONS

The campaign against the trade union bill is at a critical stage. The parliamentary process has moved into the House of Lords, where we have our best chances of defeating it or getting changes pushed through.  But this means ensuring the bill remains in the public eye as much as possible. We need to remind politicians and journalists alike of the vital role unions and union members play in our society and economy.

The Big Workplace Meeting took place across the country, with as many union branch meetings as possible taking place simultaneously at 12.30pm on Tuesday 9 February. 

HeartUNIONSFebruary (8th to 14th) 

national week of action against the trade union bill to take the message to more and more people, union members or not, that this bill is bad for our country.


The union advantage https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/TUC_UnionADV.pdf

Organising guide https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/POCKET_ORG_i.pdf

The right to strike is under threat. Here’s a quick video explaining why…

In a nutshell, the government’s Trade Union Bill would mean:
  • employers were able to use agency temps to replace striking workers
  • restrictions on pickets and protests that threaten freedom of speech
  • attacks on union reps in the public sector
along with lots more unnecessary red tape, tying up unions.
Taken together, these will undermine our basic right to strike. And that will tip the balance in the workplace in favour of employers.
We need your help to defeat this bill.
People win when we stand together. Stand with us.
Thanks for your support,
Frances O’Grady
TUC General Secretary

Over the last decade alone trade union learning centres have provided courses for over two million learners and helped develop over 30,000 learning reps. Government research from 2007 estimated union reps prevent up to 13,000 accidents a year, and by providing a voice for the workforce, reduce conflict and staff turnover, saving hundreds of millions of pounds.

Improving the lives of workers and communities is what unions are about.

Now is the time to share with others the great work unions and reps do where you work and live. We want to know why you heartunions.

heartunions is a chance to showcase the difference that unions make in your area. If you know of a union rep, course or programme that you think needs celebrating then we want to hear from you.

Wherever you work, be it a hospital, factory or call centre, please get involved, and get in touch with your stories.

Loads of events are being planned for the week. On Tuesday the 9th, the TUC we’ll be hosting the biggest ever workplace meeting, linking branches across the country to highlight the vital work unions do in workplaces of all types. On Thursday the 11th, we’ll be taking the message out into our communities, and calling on you to help raise the profile of trade unions where you live, and recruit more members to our movement.

All the key information about the week of action will be at heartunions.org.  We’ll keep adding to it in the coming weeks so that it will have everything you need to take part.

Let’s show the government that threatening trade unions has no place in a modern democracy. Only through coming together and showing our united strength will we be able defend the right to strike and organise together.

Protect the right to strike  - banner

Thanks to all three Wolverhampton Labour MPs who voted to oppose the TU Bill.

The Tories (despite a few rebels) and UKIP were the only parties to vote for these further anti-union laws.

Campaign against the Trade Union Bill will continue in the Lords, says TUC

Commenting on the vote in the House of Commons on the third reading of the Trade Union Bill, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The government has shown once again its determination to undermine the fundamental right to strike. Ministers simply want to make it harder for working people to get fair treatment at work.

While today’s vote is disappointing, the campaign against the Bill is far from over. We will continue to oppose it as it goes through the House of Lords.

As was shown in Parliament today, there is widespread concern about the threat this Bill poses to good industrial relations. It was welcome to see politicians from many parties recognise the damage it could do.

This Bill is not fit for purpose and should have no place in a modern democracy.”

• The proposals will lead to a serious imbalance of power within the workplace, undermining effective negotiations between employers and unions.

• The Conservative proposals will undermine constructive employment relations, extending disputes and making it more difficult to achieve amicable settlements.

• The government is not interested in encouraging workplace democracy. Instead they want to prevent midwives, fire-fighters, teachers and cleaners working in the Underground from protesting against cuts in jobs, and pay and conditions.

• The right to strike and to protest are fundamental rights which should be respected in a free and democratic society. The government proposals will impose greater restrictions on trade unions than any other voluntary sector membership organisation.

• The Conservatives claim to be the party of working people. However, their proposals will remove employees’ ability to achieve better working conditions and living standards.

• Employers will be able to bring in agency workers with a view to breaking strikes, regardless of the consequences for health and safety.

• Trade union protests and pickets will be subject to levels of public and police scrutiny and controls that go far beyond what is fair and acceptable in a modern democracy. These changes will also be a waste of police time.

For the first time, employers will be able to break strikes by bringing in agency workers. The bill proposes huge restrictions on peaceful picketing and protests.  Striking workers will have to tell their employer all their plans – including what they will post on Facebook – two weeks before they strike.  dropped after TU campaign

The Bill also imposes ” supermajorities” on strike ballots as well as many other restrictions on trade unionists carrying out their duties to represent members.

TUC’s page herehttps://www.tuc.org.uk/tubill

The government keeps saying that it wants to see higher turnout in votes for strikes. Unions agree, and have asked for legal permission to run votes online. The government’s response is always the same:

“Online voting is not secure.”

Yet every time they say that, someone points out that the Conservative Party uses online voting themselves to choose candidates. To this, the government replies:


They haven’t come up with a credible response, because there simply is no response. If online voting is good enough for them, it should be good enough for the trade unions too.

Millions of public sector workers will lose the right to have their trade union subscriptions automatically deducted from their pay cheques (check-off)– forcing members and their unions to make alternative arrangements. Donations to cat charities and private health care will still be taken by check-off from wages by employers, but not union dues.

With check-off there was no cost to the public purse, as unions pay the cost of any set up.  Countless local authorities have voiced their opposition to the bill, with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities asserting the intention of its members to “honour and protect existing industrial relations arrangements in local government.”

NHS employers have warned ministers that getting rid of check -off will damage employee relations and morale.

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