13 May 2015
New business secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed there will be “significant changes” to strike laws under the new Conservative government.
A strike affecting essential public services will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members, and there will need to be a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots. Restrictions on the use of employing agency staff to replace striking workers will no longer apply.
ONS data has shown that strike action is already down on the last two decades. There were 114 work stoppages in 2013, compared with 144 a year in the 2000s and 266 a year in the 1990s.
Responding to the news, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“This is a government not so much on the side of hard-working people but Britain’s worst bosses – those who want their staff to be on zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it.
“The government’s proposals on union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more. After five years of falling living standards the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse.”
Writing on the issue in March, Len McClusky, general secretary of Unite, said; “The attack on trade unions is Tory core practice because they are well aware that they can get away with their desired assault on our national fabric only if they neuter any potential opposition, and the trade unions above all. They want to reduce us to the role of concerned spectators while they tear to bits every advance that working people have secured, every protection we have built up. Against that background, should the law, when made by an elected parliament rather than a despot or a dictatorship, be respected under all circumstances?”
“…A union’s job is to fight for working people’s rights. If, in the year in which we mark the anniversary of Magna Carta, the government wants to challenge fundamental rights of the citizen, then I believe they will be facing not just the trade union movement, but a huge section of our civil society. When the law is misguided, when it oppresses the people and removes their freedoms, can we respect it? I am not really posing the question. I’m giving you the answer. It ain’t going to happen.”