New restrictions on industrial ballots are to be imposed by a Trade Union Bill that the Government proposes to introduce. The Bill has yet to be published but a press release from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills outlines its main features. Most notably, the Bill will introduce a 50% turnout requirement for a valid ballot on industrial action and limit the period during which the ballot is valid to authorise industrial action to four months.
In addition to the 50% turnout threshold, industrial action in the health, education, fire, transport, border security and energy sectors will only be authorised if 40% support is achieved. Other features of the Bill will include a requirement that the ballot paper provide ‘a clear description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action... so that all union members are clear what they are voting for’, and a requirement that union members wishing to contribute to a union’s political fund ‘opt in’, instead of the current ‘opt out’ procedure.
Most of the proposed reforms under the Bill come as no surprise as they were mooted by the Conservative Party during the General Election. More interesting will be the practical significance of the changes to our working and public lives.