The government has issued its response to the consultation paper asking for views on the extent of intimidation of non-striking workers and how this could be prevented, which was published in July. These changes form part of the Trade Union Bill which has now passed its third reading in the House of Commons and will now go to the House of Lords.
The consultation sought evidence of intimidation; 143 answers were given, of which 55% reported not having seen any evidence of such behaviour. Whilst more needs to be done to remind all parties of their existing rights and responsibilities under strike action law, existing criminal offences are sufficient for this purpose. The Code of Practice on Picketing (last updated in the 1990s) is to be amended, in particular to take account of the increasing use of social media. The consultation found that examples of intimidation included posting photos accompanied by derogatory comments, or parodying workers with images and innuendo.
As a result of the consultation, the government has confirmed that it is dropping proposals to require unions to publish in advance their plans for industrial action, picketing or social media campaigns. 79% of responses were against this because of concerns about the cost of monitoring compliance and the restriction of rights to freedom of expression. The government will also not take forward its proposal to require unions to report annually on picketing activities, since the benefit to business was unclear.