Trade union balloting rules take effect on 1 March

Photo: Photofusion/REX/Shutterstock.
Photo: Photofusion/REX/Shutterstock.

New Regulations confirm that the Trade Union Act 2016 rules on strike votes, picketing and union dues will take effect on 1 March 2017.

Trade Union Act 2016: additional resources

Podcast: Trade Union Act 2016

Handling industrial action

Picketing

The Trade Union Act 2016, which became law after significant parliamentary debate last year, requires a minimum 50% turnout for a successful vote for industrial action.

In certain important public services, such as emergency medical services, certain teaching services and passenger rail services, 40% of members entitled to vote must vote in favour of striking.

Additional rules for information that must be included on voting papers, restrictions on when strikes can take place following a successful vote and a requirement that unions appoint a picketing supervisor will also come into effect on 1 March.

Although the new requirements around balloting and industrial action are expected to reduce the number of overall strikes, some commentators anticipate that there will be unintended consequences, including an increase in unofficial industrial action.

However, Darren Newman – who is a consultant editor for XpertHR – argues that, if trade unions are smart, they will be able to turn the new rules to their advantage.

“It is true that, in the past, many nationwide ballots have attracted a low turnout, but hitherto unions have had little incentive to ensure that their members take part in the vote.

“In reality, a union would be foolish to call industrial action if it did not genuinely believe that such a move was supported by the membership, and it is likely that the need to achieve a minimum level of turnout will simply encourage unions to work to ensure that the thresholds are met.”

Newman goes on to say: “If a union comes to negotiations following a ballot that demonstrated overwhelming support for industrial action, its position will be all the stronger.”

An independent review of electronic balloting for strike votes was launched late last year.

Final Regulations on important public services also published

Alongside the new Trade Union Act 2016 rules, there are five separate sets of Regulations defining where the 40% threshold in important public services applies: