The CBI has called for stricter balloting regulations to reduce the number of strikes.
In its Making Britain the Place to Work report, the employers' group called for strikes to have a higher bar of support, with balloting rules being changed so industrial action could only be taken if 40% of the workforce support the action, as well as a majority of those actually taking part in the vote.
Currently, trade unions can launch strikes so long as a majority of those that vote support the action.
The change would prevent strikes going ahead based on a relatively small turnout of active members, the CBI said.
If this new regulations regarding strike ballots had been in place, it would have prevented strikes over changes to Civil Service redundancy packages by the PCS union, as well as the RMT's London Underground strike last year.
But the new rules would not have prevented the British Airways strikes or the Royal Mail stoppage last year.
The CBI's proposals include:
- Extending the right to request flexible working to all employees, while ensuring employers have enough time to adapt and are given clear guidance on how to prioritise requests.
- Retaining the individual opt-out from the maximum 48-hour week under the Working Time Directive, which allows staff to choose to work longer hours, for example, to earn extra money to support their families.
- Making the right to request flexible retirement more effective, rather than simply abolishing the default retirement age when there is not a practical alternative in place.
- Introducing a sustainable employment test to block regulations that will cost jobs.
- Simplifying rules around the employment of agency workers to ensure existing jobs can be maintained and new posts created.
- Reviewing the implementation of existing EU directives to remove any gold-plating, including of European TUPE rules. Current TUPE laws effectively prevent an employer from harmonising the terms and conditions of a newly-acquired business with its existing workforce.
- A ballot should be held to demonstrate workforce support for trade union recognition. This would replace the current system where the Central Arbitration Committee can automatically grant recognition if it believes union membership is greater than 50%.
- Action to strengthen the tribunal system to make greater use of pre-hearing reviews to weed out weak claims.
John Cridland, the CBI deputy director-general, said: "Strikes cost the economy dearly and undermine our efforts to help rebuild the economy. That is why we believe the bar needs to be raised, so strike action is not possible unless 40% of the workforce has actively voted to withdraw its labour."
He added: "I think it is a serious runner because the government will face a great deal of public anger if very necessary actions to deal with public spending result in strikes which the public as a whole believes are not justified."
But the TUC has criticised the CBI's proposal as a "demolition job on the rights at work of their members' staff – and a charter for exploitation by unscrupulous employers".
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, warned the UK already had some of the toughest legal restrictions on the right to strike, and the courts regularly strike down ballots.
He said: "Any further restrictions would be extremely unfair and almost certainly breach the UK's international human rights obligations."
The CBI has also proposed that consultation periods for collective redundancies should be reduced from 90 to 30 days for companies making more than 100 people redundant, in a bid to reduce uncertainty for staff and allow employers to reshape their workforces more swiftly.
Currently, only a one-month consultation period is needed for proposed redundancies of fewer than 100 jobs.
But the TUC warned reductions to redundancy consultation periods would not allow workforces enough time to develop alternatives for staff.