Hailed as the greatest shake-up of the law of industrial action in a generation, The Trade Union Act 2016 hit the statute books last year and looks set to come into force this Spring. Despite the name, there is nothing good in this for the trade union movement and the legislation is designed to assist employers by reigning in what the Government has described as ‘undemocratic strike action’.
Just looking at recent headlines of disruptive strike action in England, the political drivers for change are apparent. The key change is that the Act will require a 50% turnout from union members eligible to vote in an industrial action ballot and an additional threshold of at least 40% support of those eligible to vote if the strike will affect “important public services”. The delay in commencement has been while the Government prepared separate Regulations defining what amounts to ‘important public services’. These have now been drafted and are due to come into force on 1 March 2017. We expect that the Act too will come into force on the same date to coincide with these. The Regulations so far published cover health, fire, transport, education and border security services. As you’d expect, the recent strikes on the rail and London Underground would be caught by the new rules.