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Government forges ahead with strike reforms

Reforms to minimum turnouts in strike ballots and time limits on mandates for industrial action will go ahead as planned with the unveiling of the government’s Trades Union Bill today.

Strikes affecting "core" public services will need the support of 40% of union members to go ahead, while union ballots will also need a turnout of over 50% for any resulting strike action to be considered valid.

Under the law, votes in favour of striking would also become invalid once four months had passed. Other measures are likely to see the removal of current restrictions on using agency workers to cover for strikers, and efforts to tackle "intimidation" of non-striking workers.

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said: “We’re glad the government has brought forward this Bill, as the CBI has long called for modernisation of our outdated industrial relations laws to better reflect today’s workforce and current workplace practices.

“The introduction of thresholds is an important, but fair, step to ensure that strikes have the clear support of the workforce.

“Placing time limits on ballot mandates is an important measure to ensure industrial action is limited to the original dispute and not extended to other matters. 

“We welcome the consultation on modernising picketing rules.  Intimidation or harassment of individuals is never acceptable – and we want to see the current Code of Practice put on a statutory footing and penalties increased to drive out bad behaviour.”

Tougher regulation on strikes was a component of the Conservative manifesto before the election in May.

Business secretary Sajid Javid said: “These changes are being introduced so that strikes only happen when a clear majority of those entitled to vote have done so and all other possibilities have been explored."

He added: “Trade unions have a constructive role to play in representing their members’ interests but our one nation government will balance their rights with those of working people and business.”

The government's proposals have been criticised by unions, with TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady saying the bill "is a slippery slope towards worse rights for all".