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Right to strike?

Posted on Aug 24, 2015 in Employment Law

As London prepares for further disruption, the ongoing dispute between unions and Transport for London in relation the introduction of the Night Tube has again brought the rights and wrongs of industrial action back into public debate.

On the one hand, the RMT describes the right to strike as “a basic human right”, but how is that to be balanced against the rights of a commuter who is unable to get into work without incurring considerable additional costs, time and inconvenience?

Employees participating in lawful industrial action are protected from dismissal and the unions that organise strikes are similarly protected, provided that action is taken in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute and the various rules in relation to balloting and notification are complied with.

Last month, the government launched a consultation aimed at tightening these rules.   At present, 50% of those voting must vote in favour of industrial action. It is proposed that in addition, at least 50% of those eligible to vote must do so and where “important public services” are involved (which would include transport services) at least 40% of those eligible to vote must also vote in favour.

The proposals would, also include a new four month time limit after a ballot in which strike action must take place and enabling employers to use temporary agency workers to cover the work of striking employers.

Consultation closes on 9 September 2015.