The Trade Union Bill 2015/16

5 Jan

The Trade Union Bill 2015/16 focuses on new provision for industrial action, trade unions, employers’ associations and the functions of the certification officer.   The Bill, which has had its third reading in the House of Commons on 10 November 2015, and is going through the House of Lords, proposes a higher voting threshold for ballots.

When enacted, it will apply to England, Wales and Scotland.   It will impose a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots – with public-sector strikes also requiring the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote.   Under the current rules, a strike can be called if the majority of those participating in a ballot vote in favour.

The Bill

(a)        doubles the amount of notice unions will have to give before a strike can be held from seven to 14 days;

(b)        allows employers to use agency workers to replacing striking staff;

(c)        introduces fines of up to £20,000 on unions for repeatedly failing to ensure picket supervisors wear official armbands; and

(d)        ends the so-called check-off system for collecting union subscriptions direct from the salaries of members. This means it will be unlawful to require a member of a trade union to make a contribution to the political fund of a trade union if the member has not given to the union notice in writing of her/his willingness to contribute to that fund (an “opt-in notice”); or an opt-in notice given by the member has expired under subsection or has withdrawn it.

Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, stressed that this was not a “declaration of war” against the unions but rather, an attempt to stop “endless” threats of industrial action.   The Labour Party, on the other hand, said the Bill was “draconian and counter-productive”.

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