Public service strike proposals an ‘outdated response’, warns CIPD

Government proposals on strike laws are an ‘outdated response’ to industrial relations issues in the UK and could prove ‘counter-productive’, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). 

In its submission to the consultation on proposals, which include plans for ballot thresholds in public services and allowing employers to hire agency staff during strike action, the CIPD says the number of working days lost through industrial action today stands at less than a tenth of what it was in the 1980s. 

Instead of focusing on ballot thresholds, the professional body for HR and people development is urging the government to build a better dialogue with their workforce, improve employee engagement and consider alternative methods of protecting the public from the impact of strike action. 

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “It’s time to start talking about prevention rather than cure when it comes to strike action and the public sector’s workforce challenges in particular. Taxpayers’ interests are best served by an efficient, engaged and productive public sector workforce. 

“We need to see more consultation and ongoing dialogue, and engagement with, the workforce, rather than the introduction of mechanisms that reflect the industrial relations challenges of the 1980s. To jump straight to legislating strike activity without considering this seems to be a significant step back.” 

Mike Emmott, employee relations adviser at the CIPD, added that the new threshold proposals won’t make it possible for trade unions to call lawful strikes. The government intends to introduce a requirement in all sectors that at least 50% of union members must participate in the vote, if strike action is to proceed legally.  

“They will, however, harden attitudes and encourage trade unions to plan smaller, more localised protests to maximise support and make it more likely that the proposed statutory threshold for membership turnout will be met,” said Emmott. 

In August, the Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC), appointed by the government in July, said the government has not properly worked out the costs of the suggested changes to the law. 

As the government prepares to bring its Trade Union Bill before Parliament for its second reading, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government’s Bill is an attack on the right to strike and will worsen industrial relations. People are rightly concerned that union members will be victimised for taking action to defend their pay and conditions.”

(Image: c. Andrew Matthews - PA wire)


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