Public sector strike ballot threshold set at 40%

21 Jan 16

Votes for strike action in public services including health, education, transport, fire and rescue, and border security will need to be supported by at least 40% of union members if they are to go ahead, the government has confirmed.

Employment minister Nick Boles said that a consultation, which had considered which services should be included in the new rules, had received more than 200 responses.

Following this, ministers had decided the changes, which will also require ballots to have a turnout of at least 50% in order to be valid, should apply across these five areas.

The consultation also called for views on whether the new regulations should apply to union members working in nuclear decommissioning. However, Boles said further work was needed to ensure the new thresholds were focused on the services in this sector where strike action had the most significant impact on the public before they were implemented.

He said the new regulations, which will be brought forward in secondary legislation, were vital to give the public confidence that strikes have been backed by “a reasonable proportion” of union members.

In particular, he highlighted strike action by the National Union of Teachers in 2014, which had been backed by just 22% of their members in a 2012 ballot.

“These new thresholds ensure the right to strike is fairly balanced with the right of people to be able to go about their daily lives and work.”

Regulations specifying exactly which roles will be covered will be included in the secondary legislation.

Responding to confirmation of the reforms which were initially set out last July, the Trades Union Congress said the government had “failed to make the case” for higher strike thresholds.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said that the government’s plan would make it harder for teachers, doctors and other public servants to defend their jobs and the services they deliver.

“Now, with government cuts making services worse for patients, pupils and passengers, staff will find it far harder to raise their concerns. And we will all feel the impact in the long-term.

“These new thresholds will have the perverse effect of making abstentions more powerful in strike ballots than ‘no’ votes – and yet increasing participation in union democracy is something the government claims to want.”

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