In his blog on 17 July 2015, Geoffrey Richards set out the controversial proposed changes to strike law contained in the Trade Union Bill 2015-2016, aimed at restricting industrial action and modernising the law on picketing. The Bill began the Report Stage, a further chance to examine and makes changes to it, in the House of Lords on 16 March 2016. The House of Lords has voted through a number of amendments to the Bill which slightly soften its impact. These are set out below:
- Following a number of unions expressing frustration that the Bill did not include a provision to allow for electronic balloting, members voted in favour of a change to the Bill requiring the Secretary of State to commission an independent review of secure methods of electronic balloting and to publish and lay before Parliament a strategy for its introduction for union ballots.
- The Bill introduced a provision requiring, in specified important public services, that 40% of those entitled to vote, vote in favour of industrial action. Members voted in favour of an amendment to the Bill that workers will be excluded from the 40% threshold for ballots in specified important public services if the union "reasonably believes" that they are not "normally engaged in the provision of public services at the time of the ballot."
- The Bill introduced new information requirements in relation to industrial action, including a requirement for the union to include on the ballot voting paper a "reasonably detailed indication" of the matter in issue in the trade dispute. This requirement has been amended so that only a "summary" of the dispute is required.
- The Bill had initially proposed to increase the notice period unions must give to employers of any industrial action from 7 to 14 days. Following the Report Stage, the Bill has been amended so that a 7 day notice period will suffice if the employer agrees.
- The Bill initially provided that a ballot mandate for industrial action would expire after 4 months. This has been amended so that a ballot in favour of industrial action will remain valid for 6 months, or up to 9 months if the employer agrees.
- In terms of the supervision of picketing, the Bill had proposed that the picketing supervisor wear a badge, armband or other item that readily identifies them as the picket supervisor. This has been re-worded to require the picket supervisor to wear something to identify themselves.
- New trade union members will need to opt-in to contribute to the union's political fund rather than opting-out.
- Members also agreed to a change removing powers in the Bill given to the Secretary of State to intervene in public bodies in respect of their facility time arrangements.
The Report Stage continues on 19 April 2016.