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Trade Union Reforms Become Law

The Trade Union Bill, introduced by the UK Government in 2015, has received Royal Assent and is now the Trade Union Act.

The Bill was introduced after the Government announced a series of reforms last year that it said aimed to ensure strikes would only be able to go ahead as a result of a clear and positive democratic mandate from union members. Under the Trade Union Act, industrial action will only be able to take place when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%.

In important public services, including in the health, education, transport, border security and fire sectors, an additional threshold of 40% of support to take industrial action from all eligible members must be met for action to be legal.

The Trade Union Act will also improve union practices and increase transparency by:

  • setting a six-month time limit (which can be increased to nine months if the union and employer agree) for industrial action so that mandates are always recent,
  • requiring a clearer description of the trade dispute and the planned industrial action on the ballot paper, so that all union members are clear what they are voting for,
  • creating a transparent process for trade union subscriptions that allows new members to make an active choice of paying into political funds,
  • giving more powers to the Certification Officer to ensure new and existing rules are always followed by unions,
  • reducing the burden on taxpayers by ensuring that payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions are only administered where the cost is not funded by the public, and
  • ensuring transparency and greater accountability relating to the use of public money for facility time.

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