Government to cut 90 day redundancy consultation period

The Government has published a consultation proposing significant reforms to the collective redundancy consultation regime. Against a background of concern that the current rules do not fit the economic climate, it criticises what it sees as an arbitrary trigger of 90 days’ consultation where 100 or more redundancies are contemplated, proposing in its place a reduced period of 30 or 45 days. A new Code of Practice is also proposed which would aim to improve the quality and effectiveness of the consultation process.

Read our briefing on the consultation

PCS and Unite deepen their alliance

At PCS's annual conference last month, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, confirmed that PCS is seeking to explore closer relations between PCS and Unite. Both unions signed a joint working agreement last year which was hailed a success by Mr Serwortka, given Unite's support of PCS in the ongoing pension dispute with the Government. However, he rejected rumours of secret merger discussions taking place between the unions. As PCS and Unite are the largest unions in the civil service and the private sector respectively, this news is of particular relevance to private sector businesses employing out-sourced public sector workers.

Trade union membership statistics for 2011 reveal a mixed picture

Official 2011 trade union membership statistics report a 0.6 percentage drop in density (to 26 per cent) for employees in the UK compared with 2010. However, underlying figures held some surprises: membership levels in the private sector increased by 43,000, to 2.51 million, following more than a decade of decline, while levels of public sector trade union membership fell sharply by 186,000 to 3.88 million, following years of broadly stable membership levels. The report suggests that this reflects differing labour market conditions in the two sectors, as employee numbers rose in the private sector while the public sector experienced job losses.

Read trade union membership statistics 2011

Government plan to restrict benefits paid to striking workers

The Government has stated its intention to change the way state benefits are paid to striking workers. Under current rules, lower paid strikers continue to receive benefits and may also have their income topped up by working tax credits. According to Iain Duncan Smith, "striking is a choice, and in future benefit claimants will have to pay the price for that choice, as under universal credit we no longer will."

September election for Brendon Barber's replacement

Brendan Barber is to step down as general secretary of the Trades Union Congress at the end of the year, after 10 years in the job. Generally well-regarded, the CBI described him as "the rational face of trade unionism" when commenting on his departure. His replacement will be elected at the 2012 congress in September and some media comments suggest that Frances O'Grady, deputy general secretary since 2003 and known for campaigning on fair pay and in support of public services, is expected to win.

BIS call for evidence on EU Posted Workers Enforcement Directive

In our March labour law update we reported on an EU draft Directive which seeks to improve the implementation and enforcement of the existing Posting of Workers Directive (PWD). The UK Government is now seeking views from stakeholders on the impact of the EU's proposals to help inform its negotiating position, with a closing date of 26 July. This is relevant to businesses, particularly in construction, who employ posted workers from the EU (including through sub-contractors), or post workers to other member states. The draft Enforcement Directive seeks to improve cooperation between member states about potential contraventions of the PWD, set out mechanisms for the cross-border enforcement of PWD penalties levied on employers and, more controversially, introduce a new system of joint and several liability for contractors in the construction sector.

Read BIS call for evidence