The measures are outlined in today’s report, ‘Keeping the wheels turning: modernising the legal framework of industrial relations’, and also include proposals to double the amount of notice unions must give employers before going on strike from seven to 14 days.
CBI deputy director general John Cridland said: “When a legitimate strike threatens to disrupt the services on which the public depends, it is only right that it should require a higher bar of support. That is why no strike should go ahead unless 40% of the balloted workforce has voted for it.
“Firms must also be allowed to hire temps directly from an agency to provide emergency cover for striking workers.”
But a spokesman for trade union Unite told FoodManufacture.co.uk that UK laws on industrial relations were already “the toughest in the EU as it is. The ability to take lawful industrial action in this country now hangs by a thread thanks to the actions of some employers, who have used to the courts to avoid negotiating a fair and amicable settlement to disputes.”
She added: “We will oppose any further attempts to deny working people access to their fundamental human rights.”
Vion ballot below 40% threshold
Recent strikes in the food sector (Coca-Cola, Tunnock’s), would not have been significantly impacted by the proposals were they to become law.
However, the 40% threshold would have scuppered action at Vion’s chicken factory in Llangefni, where members of Unite recently took part in a strike ballot over pay (in the event, staff accepted the firm’s 2% pay offer and did not go on strike).
While more than 50% of union members that voted were prepared to go on strike, those in favour only represented 33% of balloted union members as there was a low turn-out, falling short of the CBI’s 40% threshold.
The threshold would ensure that the voice of all union members was heard, CBI senior policy adviser Jim Bligh told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Too often we see strike ballots that back action on small turnouts among the affected employees.”
There has been a sharp rise in industrial disputes over pay in the food manufacturing sector in recent weeks, affecting manufacturers including Nestlé UK, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Tunnock's, Bakkavor and Maple Leaf Bakery UK.
Click here to read the CBI’s report in full.