British govt sets out plans to toughen strike laws


The British government published plans on Wednesday for the biggest shake up of strike laws since the Thatcher era 30 years ago, setting itself up to battle trade unions over proposed limits to walkouts at key public services.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who last week described a 24-hour stoppage on the London Underground rail network as “unacceptable and unjustified”, promised the curbs in his re-election campaign earlier this year.

Business lobby groups welcomed the plans while the Trades Union Congress said they would make legal strikes “close to impossible”.

One union warned a rule requiring union members to make an active choice to pay into political funds would bankrupt the opposition Labour Party, as unions are its biggest financial backers.

“People have the right to expect that services on which they and their families rely are not going to be disrupted at short notice by strikes that have the support of only a small proportion of union members,” said employment minister Nick Boles in defending the plans.

The new measures will require a turnout of at least 50 percent in ballots for industrial action. In key sectors such as health, transport and education, strikes will also need support from at least 40 percent of those eligible to vote.

Currently there is no minimum threshold for turnout and only a simple majority is needed to back action.