John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director-general, says the government’s austerity plans will provoke further strikes – action which potentially could bring “contagion” to unionised sections of the private sector.
He says the laws need updating to reflect the fact that 85 per cent of private sector workers are not in unions and attitudes towards disruption have hardened.
The CBI has put together the following package of proposals:
* Employers to be able to use agency temps to cover for striking workers.
* The notice period for industrial action to increase from seven to 14 days after the ballot takes place to give the public and businesses more time to prepare for strikes.
* Ballot mandates to be limited to the original dispute, not extended to other matters. The law should state that strikes can only go ahead based on the ballot relating to the original dispute and consequential matters should be subject to a fresh ballot.
* People to have the right to decide whether they want to be represented by a union. Ballots should always be held on union recognition – it should never be automatic.
* Strikes to be the result of a clear, positive decision by the workforce concerned. The test for a legitimate strike should be that 40 per cent of balloted members support it as well as a simple majority of those voting.
* Only paid-up union members should be able to vote – there should be a single legal definition of a union member.
* Unions to keep records up to date. They should conduct an annual audit of their membership and make all reasonable endeavours to keep records accurate throughout the year.
* Union members to hear both sides of the argument before voting in a strike ballot. Employers and unions should each be allowed to send concise statements with the ballot papers, setting out the scope, nature and reason for the dispute.
* Union members need to understand the implications of striking for them personally. Ballot papers should include a notice warning that pay and non-contractual benefits can be withdrawn if an employee goes on strike.
* Steps to curb wildcat strikes to be strengthened. The Certification Officer – the unions’ regulator – should be empowered to enforce the law more effectively.
* Unions should face realistic sanctions for failing to observe the law. The cap on compensation should be increased for the first time since 1982 and damages should be awarded per day of strike action.