Here are the basics of this interesting area of law, plus recent proposals for change.
Some employees are banned from striking altogether.
Armed service personnel, police and prison officers cannot go out on strike, but other public service workers can. There are proposals for the ban to be extended to key transport services, and for all public services to be subject to a minimum service guarantee, as in France. These are currently only proposals, however.
Protection for employees.
Wages will not usually be payable to striking employees. However, they have the right not to be dismissed because they are on strike, provided this has lasted less than 12 weeks, their union has authorised the action (making it official) and it has jumped through the hoops set out below.
Protection for trade unions.
Trade unions authorising a strike will have immunity from legal liabilities such as conspiracy, intimidation, and interference with trade, but they first need to comply with a number of detailed rules.
There must be a trade dispute, as defined.
For there to be union immunity, there must first be an actual or potential trade dispute. This must relate to certain work matters, such as benefits and physical working conditions. A dispute about anything an employee is told to do will also amount to a trade dispute.
There must also be a proper ballot.
It is very easy for a union to get this wrong, as there are a large number of detailed rules covering every stage of the process. All those who are reasonably likely to go on strike must be balloted, and no one else. Only a majority of those who actually voted needs to be achieved for the ballot to be successful. However, there are new rules that apply to important public services.
Picketing and sympathy strikes.
Unions will have no immunity at all for sympathy or secondary action, and pickets are only allowed at the relevant place of work, with a moderate number of picketers, and where there has been no intimidation.
If you would like to talk to one of our experienced solicitors about any of these issues, please give us a call; we would be delighted to help.