The Trade Union Act 2016 and The Right to Strike: Where Are ...

The Trade Union Act 2016 and The Right to Strike: Where Are ...

THE TRADE UNION ACT 2016 AND THE RIGHT TO STRIKE: WHERE ARE WE NOW? PROFESSOR ALAN BOGG UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL The main provisions TUA s.2 - new s.226(2)(a)(iia) in TULRCA - at least 50% of those entitled to vote in ballot must vote (as well as a majority of those in fact voting being in favour). TUA s. 3 - new s.226(2A)-(2F) - additional threshold in important public services (IPS), to be defined in statutory instruments. Threshold: at least 40% of those who were entitled to vote in the ballot answered Yes to the

question (new s.226(2C)). Additional to (i) 50% threshold and (ii) majority vote. TUA s.4 - SoS shall commission independent review of electronic balloting. The main provisions TUA s.5, inserting a new s.229(2B)-(2D) TULRCA. As well as including existing long list of compulsory information (see s.229), now voting paper must include: (i) summary of the matter or matters in issue in the trade dispute; (ii) type or types of industrial action short of a strike; and (iii) period or periods within which each type of action is expected to take place. Already mass of detail in paper: see existing requirements in s.229 - name of scrutineer, address, questions about strike, caller of action, warning about breach of contract/unfair dismissal. Now spreading over two pages. TUA s.8 - now two weeks, not one weeks, notice of industrial action after ballot

(unless employer agrees to just seven days notice) - see new s.234A(b). TUA s.9 new limit of six months strike mandate - see new s.234(1). Where are we now? Case law under the Act E-balloting The position in Wales under the Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017 The position under the ILO Impact on industrial disputes and strategic responses by trade unions Future prospects Case law under the TUA Argos v Unite [2017] EWHC 1959 (QB): dispute about transfer of distribution centre workers from Argos to

Wincanton; see ballot paper at 17 and Dingemans J at 33, 36, concluding it was a reasonable summary (the case is also useful for an analysis of whether there was a trade dispute). The court took a common sense view of summary (and c.f. the original formulation in the TUA Bill which had referred to reasonably detailed indication) Thomas Cook Airlines Limited v BALPA [2017] EWHC 2253 (QB): Whether it is proposed to take discontinuous industrial actionon dates to be announced over the period from 8 th September 2017 to 18th February 2018 was sufficient for 229(2D) TULRCA 1992. Lavender J: one thing which the subsection does not require the trade union to do is to identify specific dates on which industrial action is to be taken, rather than the period within which it is expected to take place. The courts have taken a sensible approach to date, although the TUA provisions have created more opportunities for employers to raise legal objections. So far, the courts have focused on the wording of the legislation. No reliance on Article 11 as an interpretive framework for the construing the provisions.

E-balloting The Government commissioned a review of E-balloting led by Sir Kenneth Knight which reported in 2017 Recommendation 1: E-balloting for industrial action ballots would only be capable of retaining public confidence if it were seen to be as secure and reliable as the current postal approach. Recommendation 2: Owing to the number of unanswered questions surrounding e- balloting I am not persuaded that e-balloting for industrial action ballots can be introduced immediately. Instead I recommend that a test of e-balloting on non-statutory ballots is necessary as a preliminary step and that this would potentially be the basis for the Secretary of State to decide the matter. Recommendation 4: The providers of any systems used to trial e-balloting must be able to demonstrate that they are able to withstand cyber-attack/hacking from those who wish to cause disruption. There has been no response as yet from the Government. Has the review killed off E-balloting? Why special restrictions for trade unions? Why not workplace ballots to maximise participation as under

Schedule A1? The Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017 The legislation disapplies the 40% threshold in important public services in respect of devolved public services which are the responsibility of the National Assembly for Wales (NHS, education, local government, fire service) The legislation disapplies on the provisions on trade union facility time and check-off The legislation protects the position so that agency workers are prevented from covering the work of public sector employees during industrial action (though the UK Government has not yet acted to remove the restrictions on use of agency workers as strike breakers) The possibilities of a legal challenge: Re Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill; AG for England and Wales v Counsel General for Wales [2014] UKSC 43

Capitalising on the political embarrassment of different strike regimes in different parts of the United Kingdom? ILO Committee of Experts The 50 percent threshold (looking at the cumulative effect of restrictions, is this a reasonable quorum?) The Committee requests the Government to review this matter with the social partners concerned with a view to modifying the Bill so as to ensure that the heightened requirement of support of 40 per cent of all workers does not apply to education and transport services. the expiration of the ballot mandate, coupled with the extensive notice requirements and the current context of a postal ballot, are likely to hinder the capacity of workers organizations to exercise their activities free from interference. The Committee concluded by requesting the Government to provide information on the progress made to allow

electronic balloting and to review the articulation of sections 8 and 9 of the Act in the light of the above concerns. Impact and Trade Union Responses Research by Professor Gregor Gall for The Jimmy Reid Foundation: The Trade Union Act 2016: what has its impact been so far? Too early to draw any clear conclusions Some high profile examples of the impact of thresholds: According the independent scrutineer of the ballot which closed on 23 July 2018 revealed that 142,673 members were entitled to vote; 59,285 did vote; and that 50,726 voted in favour of industrial action. But although this represented support in the ballot of 85.6%, the ballot was invalid because only 41.6% of those eligible to vote did so. The result is that

59,254 workers have been denied the right to strike (TUC Observations to CEACR) Recent example of universities being advised to encourage abstentions in UCU strike vote Gall: consultative ballots as a strategic response? A TUC-coordinated clearing house for intelligence gathering? Front-loading strike action as a response to new notice periods and reduced period of ballot mandates? Do the thresholds militate against national scale strikes? Future Prospects and Lessons Learned? Beware Tories bearing gifts of independent reviews (Kenneth Knight and Matthew Taylor): keeping the pressure on for E-ballots and making the case for secret workplace ballots Important concessions in the legislative process that appear to have made a practical difference

(see Argos v Unite [2017] EWHC 1959 (QB)) The political significance of federalism in labour law? Why are public services in Wales any different to public services in other parts of the U.K.? Article 11 after RMT v UK? The prospects for a successful challenge in Strasbourg are limited. The IER Manifesto immediate repeal of the TUA 2016! In the end, the solutions here will be political, not legal.

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