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Legal Updates

Calls for changes to laws on striking?

05 October 2010 #Employment

Were you one of the unlucky commuters stuck in the middle of the dispute between Trade Unions and staff on the London Underground recently? Many commuters faced hours of delays and cancelled trains as they tried to get to and from work after 11,000 members of the RMT union and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) started a 24 hour walk out at 7pm on Sunday night.

Boris Johnson has called for the Government to update current legislation so that industrial action such as strikes cannot take place unless 50% of union members take part in a ballot. The CBI has also requested a change to the law, stating that strikes should only go ahead if at least 40% of balloted members vote in favour of action.

Under current legislation, a strike can go ahead legally with only a small minority of the trade union members - and an extreme minority of the actual labour force - voting in favour of it. For example in the recent British Airways industrial action, only 31% of unionised staff actually voted to strike. This amounted to a very small proportion of BA`s total work force.

The CBI has also called for companies to be able to recruit temporary agency workers to "provide essential cover" for businesses during strikes. Currently organisations can recruit temporary workers directly but are not able to use an agency to assit in recruitment.

The TUC however are opposed to the proposals. General Secretary Brendan Barber commented: "The UK has some of the toughest legal restrictions on the right to strike in the advanced world. Already the courts regularly strike down democratic ballots that clearly show majority support for action. The CBI proposals are a fundamental attack on basic rights at work that are recognised in every human rights charter, and will be dismissed by any Government with a commitment to civil liberties."



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