The Queen's Speech, which sets out the government's agenda for the next five years, has outlined a new Trade Unions Bill.

The main elements of the Bill are described as follows:

  • a higher "turn-out threshold" of 50% for strike ballots (whilst retaining the requirement for there to be a simple majority of votes in favour of the strike action balloted);
  • in addition to the 50% "turn-out threshold", for strike action in essential public services (health, education, fire, transport), 40% of those entitled to vote must actually vote in favour of industrial action;
  • tackling the intimidation of non-striking workers during a strike;
  • introducing a transparent opt-in process for the political fund element of trade union subscriptions;
  • introducing time limits on a mandate following a ballot for industrial action; and
  • making changes to the role of the Certification Officer.

The Speech has invariably provoked criticism from the unions, in particular due to the proposed reforms to political funding.  The change would mean that union members will have to opt-in to paying an annual amount to the Labour party, rather than opting-out as they do at present which, it is suggested, will dramatically reduce Labour's funding from the unions.

The Queen's speech however does NOT include the proposals set out in the Conservative party manifesto we reported on in our update of 14 May 2015:

  • to repeal the current ban on employers from hiring agency workers to cover striking employees; and
  • to tighten the rules around "facility time" for union representatives.

It remains to be seen whether these particular proposals have been dropped from the agenda or if they will re-appear in the draft version of the Bill. We will continue to keep you updated as and when the Bill develops into draft legislation.