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Government plans strike laws update

Published 12/05/2015

New Business Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government will not hide away from the need to update strike laws
New Business Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government will not hide away from the need to update strike laws

Workers will find it more difficult to go on strike under plans to be introduced in the Government's first Queen's Speech, Business Secretary Sajid Javid has said.

The new Tory administration will prioritise proposals to allow employers to hire agency staff to fill gaps left by workers who have gone on strike, Mr Javid said.

New laws will be introduced to stop public sector strikes going ahead unless they have the support of 40% of workers eligible to vote.

And turnout will have to reach at least 50% of those entitled to vote for a strike to go ahead.

The newly-appointed Business Secretary said the Government would not hide away from the need to update strike laws but his comments are likely to provoke a furious reaction from trade unions.

Mr Javid told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We have already made clear in terms of strike laws that there will be some significant changes.

"We've said that there will be a minimum threshold in terms of turnout of 50% of those entitled to vote.

"We have also said that when it comes to essential public services, at least 40% of people need to vote for strike action.

"And we've said we're going to lift the ban on the use of agency staff when strike action takes place.

"That's something we'll give more detail on in the Queen's Speech but it will be a priority."

He added: "I think it's also something that needs to be done.

"We need to update our strike laws and we've never hidden away from the changes we want to make."

Mr Javid also outlined plans to deregulate businesses, create two million jobs and three million apprenticeships, and promote free enterprise.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "This is a Government not so much on the side of hard-working people but Britain's worst bosses - those who want their staff to be on zero-hours contracts, poverty pay and unable to effectively organise in a union so that they can do something about it.

"The Government's proposals on union ballots will make legal strikes close to impossible. Union negotiators will be left with no more power than Oliver Twist when he asked for more.

"After five years of falling living standards the prospects for decent pay rises have just got a whole lot worse."

The new Government will face its first big challenge on the industrial relations front later today when the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announces the results of strike ballots among its members at Network Rail and the Docklands Light Railway in London.

General secretary Mick Cash said: " It was on the cards that this Government, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the idle rich and the bad bosses, would move quickly to tighten the noose of the anti-union laws around the workers' necks at the earliest opportunity.

"These proposed new laws would mean one form of democracy for the greedy political class and another for the organised working-class. The trade unions will unite to fight these attacks."

Katja Hall, CBI deputy director general, said: "The CBI has long been calling for modernisation of our outdated industrial relations laws.

"Strikes should always be the result of a clear, positive decision by those balloted. The introduction of a threshold is an important - but fair - step to rebalance the interests of employers, employees, the public and the rights of trade unions.

"For nearly five years the CBI has been saying that recruiting agency workers to plug gaps during a strike is not about threatening strikers' jobs, but providing essential cover during periods of action so businesses can continue to serve their customers. The abolition of this restriction is long overdue."

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