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Repeal trades union laws- improve trades union freedom

Comment 1st July 2010

Repeal all anti trades union legislation and replace with the following bill of rights:

 

Protection for individuals involved in lawful industrial action

  • Dismissals in anticipation of, during or after lawful industrial action should be void and ineffective, unless the employer can show that the reason for the dismissal was not connected to the industrial action.
  • It should also be automatically unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee once he or she returns to work following lawful industrial action.  This will act as a powerful disincentive to employers from employing replacement staff and making strikers redundant.
  • Interim relief should be available in all unfair dismissal claims relating to lawful industrial action and employees who have been unfairly dismissed should be entitled to automatic reinstatement if they request it.
  • All workers should be protected from suffering detriment or for being sued for damage as a result of their taking part in industrial action other than appropriate deductions from wages for work not done due to industrial action.

Industrial action notices

  • A trade union should only be obliged to give a minimum of 7 days notice to the employer of the proposed commencement of industrial action. 
  • The nature of the information which must be included in the notice should be substantially simplified.  Unions should be required only to inform the employer of the category of workers, of the nature of industrial action, and when action will commence.
  • A trade union should also not lose its immunity for taking industrial action where it accidentally includes an insignificant amount of inaccurate information in a notice to the employer.
  • An employer should be under a duty to co-operate when requested by the union by supplying relevant information needed to enable the union to comply with notice and balloting requirements.  Where the employer refuses to supply the necessary information, a subsequent application for an interim injunction to prevent industrial action should fail.

Industrial action ballots

  • A trade union should not lose its protection from taking industrial action where it accidentally fails to comply with balloting rules but the mistake would have no material impact on the outcome of the ballot.
  • The current bar on industrial action where there has been a prior call should be removed.

Industrial action injunctions

  • The law on interim injunctions should be revised to provide that an interim injunction shall not be granted unless it can be shown that the employer is more likely to succeed than the union at trial.  A similar requirement in relation to interim injunctions to restrain media publication is found in s12(3) of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Trade disputes and supportive action

  • The definition of a trade dispute should be amended to include disputes concerning a future employer and future terms and conditions of employment, in the context of a transfer of part of a business. 
  • The definition of a trade dispute should be amended to include disputes between workers and their employer and any associated employer.  
  • Supportive action should be permitted against a company to which work or production has been transferred in connection with a trade dispute.
  • Supportive action should be permitted where a union reasonably believes that an intervention by a principal supplier or customer has caused or substantially contributed to the proposal or decision which is the subject of a primary trade dispute.

In this second category of supportive action the primary trade dispute which would be about a proposal or decision of the employer, which has been rejected by workers, for example to:

    • make a detrimental change to terms and conditions of employment;
    • discipline,
    • dismiss workers,
    • make workers redundant; or
    • to hire replacement labour to do the work which would otherwise have been undertaken by workers who are taking industrial action or who it is anticipated will be taking industrial action
  • A union would be required to hold a ballot and give notice before taking any form of supportive action.
  • In addition, the remaining bar on industrial action by prison officers should be removed by the repeal of section 127 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.

Non-replacement of those taking lawful industrial action

  • In addition to employment agencies being barred from supplying agency workers to carry out work being carried out by an individual taking lawful industrial action, a correlative duty should be placed on employers to inform any agency that industrial action is taking place.  It should also be unlawful for employers to hire agency workers to carry out work normally done by workers involved in lawful industrial action.

Why does this matter?

as described above

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