The UK government today introduced a new bill seeking to tighten rules under which workers can stage strikes, a move that outraged the country’s unions and described as the biggest shake-up of rules on industrial action in 30 years.
Proposed strikes in key public services such as health, education, fire, transport, border security and energy would also have to be backed by 40 per cent of all members eligible to vote.
Under current rules a simple majority of those that take part in a ballot is required to call a strike.
The move comes in the wake of one of Britain’s biggest strike actions in decades when London’s Underground network was shut down for 24-hours last week, causing chaos and misery to commuters.
Another 24-hour strike is planned by tube workers who are opposed to new plans around night shifts as some of the network begins a 24-hour service from September.
The latest bill,u00a0described as the biggest shake-up in the rules on industrial action in 30 years,u00a0has been opposed by trade unions as an attack on workers’ rights.
UK business secretary Sajid Javid said: “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.
“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.”
But TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the bill would “make it almost impossible for workers to exercise what is their democratic right and civil liberty.”
Consultations on the 40 per cent strike ballot threshold for key public sectors, picketing rules, and use of agency workers will be open until September.
The Conservative party had wanted to introduce the reforms during the coalition government but the move was blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
The bill got its first reading today and will be debated at a later stage.