In what was described in the FT as a "climb down", the Government has published its response to its consultation on "tackling intimidation of non-striking workers".

The consultation is one of three consultations which relate to the changes the Government is considering to Trade Union law.  

The other two consultations relate to the use of agency workers and the balloting process/requirements.  We are awaiting the Government's responses to those consultations.

Regarding the response to the "intimidation of non-striking workers" consultation, the Government has stated that the following reforms will come in: 

  • The requirement to appoint a picket supervisor who will have responsibility for the conduct of a picket, and who will be required to wear a badge or armband to identify them
  • The supervisor must have a "letter of authority" from the union which the employer will have the right to see 

The following requirements are no longer coming in:

  • The supervisor will not have to show the "letter of authority" to "any third party" who asked to see it (and the letter of authority no longer needs to have the supervisor's name on it)
  • There will be no new criminal offence of intimidation on a picket line
  • The union will not need to provide to the employer and the police, at the same time as the notice of industrial action, detailed information regarding the picket (such as where it will be, numbers, use of social media etc)
  • The need for a Certification Officer to report annually on the union's industrial action and picketing activities has been dropped.

Our comment

The Government has clearly stepped back from the detail of the requirements, perhaps in the face of union pressure, and perhaps in the face of a view that they were unworkable (and there was an absence of a clamour from employers in support of these particular proposals).  Note though the requirement for a picket supervisor to be clearly identifiable, with a letter of authority, remains, but in practice we see this particular reform changing little.

The outcome of the remaining two consultations remains keenly awaited by employers, and there we are expecting the Government to stand its ground more in relation to its initial proposals in those areas.