Strike law changes will cause problems in food

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

The CBI backs the strike rules changes
The CBI backs the strike rules changes

Related tags Trade union

Strike law reforms proposed by the government in the Trades Union Bill could “sour” relationships between workers and employers and increase the likelihood of unofficial action, the manufacturers’ organisation EEF has warned.

If the Bill’s proposals were adopted, employees would have to give a minimum of 14 days’ notice before striking. Under existing rules, workers are required to give seven days’ notice. The current ban on employers using agency workers to do the jobs of those on strike would also be lifted.

A 50% turnout in a strike ballot, currently proposed for important public services, such as fire, police and transport, could eventually be imposed on other industries, such as the food and drink sector, according to some industry commentators.

Unofficial strike action

At the moment, there is no specified level of participation in strike ballots by union members.

If given the go ahead, the Bill, which was published last month (July) and is under consultation, could increase the risk of unofficial, ‘wildcat’ strike action by workers, EEF head of employment policy Tim Thomas said.

“In general, we would prefer any strike action to be organised as employers have notice, can talk to unions and have an opportunity to resolve issues,”​ Thomas said. “Who do you talk to when there is unofficial action?”

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the general union GMB, argued that the Bill would “seriously damage”​ industrial relations. Giving employers 14 days’ notice before striking would undermine the action, as there would be ample time to legally hire another workforce to break the strike, remarked Kenny.

‘Poison relationship’

“This blatant one-sided approach is guaranteed to poison the relationship between workers and their managers,” ​he claimed. “It will lead to even more trouble.”

Despite EEF’s and the GMB’s opposition to the Bill, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the proposed changes were long overdue.

CBI deputy director general Katja Hall said: “We’re glad the government has brought forward this Bill as the CBI has long called for modernisation of our outdated industrial relations laws to better reflect today's workforce and current workplace practices.”

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