The Conservative Party will announce plans in the Queen’s Speech this month to make it harder for employees to go on strike.
Newly appointed business secretary Sajid Javid has said there will be “significant changes” to strike laws under the new Government.
Strike laws resources
Any strike affecting essential public services such as health or fire services will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members under the new plans.
There will also need to be a minimum of 50% turnout in strike ballots, compared to the current situation where a strike is valid simply if it is backed by a majority of those balloted.
Javid told the BBC that the planned changes were “proportionate” and “sensible”.
“If you look at other countries and what they’ve done they’re not too dissimilar,” he said. “What people are fed up of is strike action that hasn’t been properly supported by the members of the relevant union.
“We’ve seen, including in the last five years, strike action that took place where perhaps only 10% to 15% of the members of that profession actually voted for it, and that’s not right, it’s unfair, especially when it comes to essential public services.”
The TUC said the proposals would make strike action “close to impossible”.
General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This is a government not so much on the side of hard-working people but Britain’s worst bosses – those who want their staff to be on zero hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it.
“Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more. After five years of falling living standards the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse.”
Meanwhile, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), said that trade unions would “unite to fight these attacks”. General secretary Mick Cash said the new laws would mean “one form of democracy for the greedy political class and another for the organised working class”.
Javid referred to the fact the Conservatives had tried to reform strike regulations under the coalition, but this had been blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
The Government also plans to lift restrictions on the use of agency staff to replace workers who are on strike.
The CBI called the move “an important but fair” step that would “rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions”.
Deputy director general Katja Hall said: “For nearly five years the CBI has been saying that recruiting agency workers to plug gaps during a strike is not about threatening strikers’ jobs, but providing essential cover during periods of action so businesses can continue to serve their customers.”