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Will the Trade Union Bill stop strikes?

WORKPLACE RIGHTS: The Bill is clamping down on industrial action with new strike ballot rules.

by Michael Burd and James Davies
Last Updated: 06 Jun 2016

The government's Trade Union Bill has been called the most radical crackdown on industrial action since the Thatcher era. While largely welcomed by employers, unions have claimed it will make calling a lawful strike almost impossible.

One of the Bill's main targets is low turnouts in strike ballots. It will require 50% of those workers eligible to vote in a ballot to participate in order for a strike to be legitimate.

Moreover, in 'important' public services such as health, education, transport and energy, at least 40% of the voting pool will need to vote in favour of the proposed action.

This may to some extent be a solution looking for a problem as recent, high-profile strikes in the public sector would have met the above thresholds anyway. Other aspects of the government's reforms are arguably more significant, such as permitting employers to hire agency staff as direct replacements for striking workers and making unlawful picketing a criminal (rather than a civil) offence.

Michael Burd and James Davies work at Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors. Email them at:

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