Tories cannot curb public sector strikes. Fact

The right to strike is almost universally recognised, in international treaties & instruments, as a fundamental human right - in both private & public sectors.

Tim Leunig’s strategy for how the Tories can curb public sector strikes is simply wrong as a matter of law. The right to strike is almost universally recognised, in numerous international treaties and instruments, as a fundamental human right.

Most recently, it has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights as a component of the freedom of association protected by Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The law on industrial action in the United Kingdom is set out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, not the Employment Act 1982.

The restrictions on a union’s ability to organise industrial action in the United Kingdom are amongst the most onerous in Europe. They have consistently been found to be too restrictive by the Committee of Experts of the Council of Europe and the supervisory bodies of the International Labour Organisation.

It is simply wrong to say that there is a different right to strike in the public and private sectors. The law on strikes makes no distinction.

Industrial action has to be “in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute”. A trade dispute has to be between workers and their employer (except, sometimes, where the dispute involves the decision-making of a Minister). Separate notices of ballot and notices of industrial action must be given to separate employers.

The starting point is that ballots have to be conducted workplace by workplace. But a union is permitted to aggregate a ballot across a number of workplaces, and a number of different employers, in closely defined circumstances. These requirements are identical in the public and private sectors.

Suggesting that there should be a Tory “plan” to re-write the law on industrial action to impose more restrictions on trade unions fails to recognise that the restrictions as they stand have been condemned as too onerous on numerous occasions by international supervisory bodies, including the International Labour Organisation.

If the Tories are to have a strategy for curbing strikes, it would be more productive to engage with the reasons for worker dissatisfaction which lead them to contemplate strike action in the first place, rather than the means by which that dissatisfaction is expressed.

Our guest writer is Richard Arthur of Thompsons Solicitors

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.