Public sector faces new strike thresholds

A large number of public sector workers will be affected by new strike thresholds proposed by the government, which will require the support of 40 per cent of union members for industrial action.

The proposed changes to strike thresholds are part of the new Trade Union Bill currently going through Parliament and, following a consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, it has been confirmed that the changes will affect workers in the fire, health, education, transport, border security and nuclear decommissioning sectors.

The new rules would require the support of at least 40 per cent of union members to approve strike action, as well as a ballot turnout of at least 50 per cent.

Employment Minister Nick Boles said: “When strikes disrupt important public services that we all rely on day-in, day-out, it is important the public can have confidence strikes were backed by a reasonable proportion of union members.

“These new thresholds ensure the right to strike is fairly balanced with the right of people to be able to go about their daily lives and work.”

Under the proposed rules, recent strikes by junior doctors and London Underground workers would still have taken place, as ballots easily passed the new thresholds. However, strike action organised by the National Union of Teachers in 2014, which was held on the support of 22 per cent of its members, would not have been allowed to go ahead.

The move has been criticised by trade union Unison, which described the bill as ‘unfair, unnecessary and undemocratic’, and is campaigning with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to oppose it.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “The government is set on introducing tougher measures to make it harder for teachers, doctors and other public servants to defend their jobs and the services we all rely on. Now, with government cuts making services worse for patients, pupils and passengers, staff will find it far harder to raise their concerns. And we will all feel the impact in the long-term.

“The decision to go on strike is never one people take lightly. It’s a last resort, when employers won’t listen and won’t compromise. The government is wrong to threaten this fundamental British liberty.”