In an interview last week the new Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, reiterated the Conservative Party's pre-General Election pledges to change the laws on industrial action by:

  • introducing a minimum 50% turnout in ballots in order for strikes to be lawful
  • in addition, for strikes affecting health, transport, fire services or schools, requiring backing from 40% of eligible union members
  • removing the restrictions that prevent employers from using agency workers to cover for striking employees.

Mr Javid commented that the Conservatives had wanted to change strike rules during the Coalition, but had been blocked by the Liberal Democrats.  In the light of this, it is possible that other previously mooted changes on industrial action may also feature in the new legislation, such as:

  • preventing strike action being taken on the basis of ballots conducted a long time previously
  • increasing the notice of industrial action to be given to employers from seven to 14 days
  • making illegal picketing a criminal offence
  • requiring unions to set out on the ballot paper the exact form the proposed action would take, with a vote on each aspect of the dispute. 

In its manifesto the Scottish National Party specifically opposed these changes, so we can expect there to be some lively debate on any new legislation.