It has now been confirmed that the major provisions of the Trade Union Act 2016 will come into force on 1 March 2017. Having received Royal Assent last May, there has been a staged introduction of the provisions, with some of the most important ones announced to commence this week.
The plans to replace the existing Trade Union Act were announced in the early summer of 2015. Draft legislation followed shortly after for the Trade Union Act 2016. The Conservative Party manifesto heralded the Act as bringing an end to disruptive and undemocratic strike action. Trade unions, on the other hand, are concerned that the Act brings further complexity to the balloting process and erosion of the circumstances in which industrial action will be protected from legal challenge.
Those provisions to come into force from 1 March 2017 include:
Ballot thresholds will increase
Under the current provision, industrial action must follow a majority ballot of 50% of those who responded. However, under the new laws, as well as a majority being needed at ballot, at least 50% of all members capable of voting must have voted in the ballot.
Another ballot threshold increase for 'important public services'
Those involved in 'important public services' will only be able to take industrial action if, in addition to the turnout requirement, at least 40% of those members entitled to vote have voted in favour of the action. This is a significantly higher hurdle than in the past.
Who is covered by important public services?
This will include, non-exhaustively, workers in the health services, education of those under 17, fire services, transport services, decommissioning of nuclear installations and border security.
The balloting papers under the new act must include a summary of the matters in dispute to which the industrial action relates. It must also indicate the type of industrial action to be proposed and the period of time which the action is meant to take place.
Notice to Employer
The minimum period of notice for industrial action following a ballot is now 14 days, unless the employer agrees to 7 days.
Any person who joins a trade union after the end of the transition period cannot be required to contribute to the political fund unless they have given notice of their willingness to contribute to that fund.
Mandate for Industrial Action can expire
Industrial action that is regarded as having the support of a ballot (and therefore statutory immunity) shall expire after six months or at the latest nine months with the agreement between the union and member's employer.
Pickets must be supervised, trained and clearly identified
The changes will be a significant adjustment for trade unions. Pickets must appoint a designated supervisor.
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