16 NOV 2015
Trade Union Bill update - no further regulation for tackling intimidation of non-striking workers
Associate, Veale Wasbrough Vizards
The government has responded to the consultation on tackling the intimidation of non-striking workers and will not introduce further regulations on this matter.
Trade Union Bill proposal
We previously reported on the new Trade Union Bill.
The Trade Union Bill currently included the following provisions:
- New thresholds requirements on industrial action ballots of at least 50% of those eligible to vote. In cases of 'important public services', at least 40% of those eligible must vote in favour.
- Ballot papers will need to give a reasonable amount of information about the dispute, state the type of industrial action (other than a strike) that is proposed and indicate the timescale within which the action is envisaged to happen.
- An increase in the length of notice required before industrial action to 14 days, rather than 7.
- The confirmation of the ballot results must set out the number of individuals entitled to vote, together with confirmation as to whether the new voting thresholds have been met or not.
- Imposing a restriction that industrial action must take place within 4 months. After the expiration of 4 months, a new ballot will be required.
- New detailed directions on picketing, which includes a statutory obligation for the union to notify the police of the time and place of the picket and also to appoint a picket supervisor. The picket supervisor will be responsible for managing the picket line, to make sure it remains calm and non-violent and to address any inappropriate intimidating behaviour.
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Tackling intimidation of non-striking workers
Following the Bill, there have been three consultations, including tackling the intimidation of non-striking workers.
The government was concerned about potential and alleged intimidation by unions on picket lines and during protests. The government was also mindful of the wider impact of industrial dispute and seeks to balance the various competing interests.
Following an independent review in April 2014 (the Carr review) the government was concerned as to whether any additional measures beyond those set out in the Bill, should be introduced to tackle the issue of intimidation and other extreme tactics used by union members, and it therefore consulted on this point.
The majority of respondents felt there was no need for further measures. However, the consultation identified concerns about the use of social media during industrial action, for example the posting of photographs of non-striking workers.
Accordingly, the government has announced that it will not pursue any further proposals. It had also confirmed that it will abandon proposals requiring unions to publish advance plans for industrial action, pickets, or social media campaigns and will not introduce a new criminal offence on intimidation.
However, the government views the legal requirement for the union to appoint a picket supervisor as being an appropriate and proportionate way to prevent intimidation occurring on the picket line. The Code of Practice on Picketing will also be updated.
Employers should be mindful of potential intimidation towards non-picketing workers and ensure that following the passing of the Bill it is familiar with the provisions of the new Act.