Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Tories pledge to make it harder for public sector workers to strike


NHS staff and other public sector workers would in the future only be able to go on strike with a 40% majority vote among eligible union members, the Conservative Party has pledged.

If the Tories win the general election later this year, the party has vowed to introduce new legislation which would make it more difficult for “essential services” workers – such as those from  health, education, transport and the fire services – to take industrial action.

Currently, a strike can go ahead if the majority of those voting are in favour of action, regardless of how many union members are ballotted.

The Conservatives have previously announced their intention to introduce a 50% turnout threshold for all strike ballots.

“Sadly, low turnouts and low ballot majorities for industrial action are becoming the norm”

Patrick McLoughlin

If such rules already existed, they would have had a serious impact on the current pay dispute between the government and NHS unions. Recent strikes by NHS workers over pay have seen varying levels of voting turnout across different unions.

Unison’s ballot results last autumn showed that while 68% of respondents voted in favour of strike action, this represented just 16% of those who were balloted. Unite has withheld its turnout result, suggesting it was also low.

However, the Royal College of Midwives had a much higher turnout – 49.4% – in its ballot over the same pay row, in which 82.2% voted for strike action.

The RCM has labelled the proposed measures as “disgraceful,” claiming they would end workers’ fundamental rights to protest if they were to go ahead.

“It will put an enormous amount of power over workers back into the hands of employers and will leave those workers without any redress against abuses of that power,” said Jon Skewes, director for policy, employment relations and communications

Other changes that will form part of the Conservatives’ election manifesto include ending the ban on using agency staff to cover for striking workers and conducting a review into the use of minimum service levels so people could “rely on core public services being there,” the party said.

Announcing the proposed changes, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “It’s not fair that politicised trade union leaders can hold the country to ransom with demands that only a small percentage of their members actually voted for.

“Sadly, low turnouts and low ballot majorities for industrial action are becoming the norm,” he said. “Of the 102 strike ballots between August 2010 and December 2014, nearly two thirds failed to attract half of union members even turning up to vote.”

He described the plans as “radical proposals,” which he claimed would support British people and restore confidence in the trade unions.



Readers' comments (9)

  • Yes, be ideal if there were far better turn outs. Can't help silent majority being tuned out and turned off politics, with all the political rhetoric on the airwaves.
    Would like to see MPs get 40%+ of eligible votes for each constituency, so we would have confidence of knowing our MPs have strong support of their constituents.
    Sorry forgot that this doesn't apply to politicians.

    People don't have to be in a trade union if they don't like what trade unions do. They can still work without being in one.
    For those that are, this is yet another example of the government wanting to ignore what these members have to say.

    Before this gets implemented, I will encourage people not to vote for any party that has a pledge like this.
    Union member or not, we're all in this together and will likely to suffer from poor government policies together.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • did the tories get voted in with a majority of 40%..erm NO

    usual rule for us plebs and another for the eton toffs

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Bring back workplace ballots. Postal ballots are often just tossed in the bin. Allow reps to go ward to ward making sure staff vote. If you can't be bothered to vote, why should you have an effect on the outcome?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • why would NHS nurses and other clinical staff wish to strike? if you don't like it don't work there. leave the posts to those who believe in caring for patients and putting their interests and safety first.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This government didn't get a mandate of 40% and I doubt if the Tory party alone will in May (Vote against them nurses, please). As said above, they want one rule for them and another for the hardworking people of UK

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Nobody wishes to strike. Sometimes you have no real choice unless you also wish to continue to be exploited (and why would anyone wish to be exploited?) Due to the agreed cover, it is unlikely that any patients were harmed during the previous four-hour strikes. It is more symbolic. Even the RMC agreed to strike for the first time in their history.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • bob cat

    Seems very little of what politicians proclaim applies to everyone else, eg. pay rises, expenses, alcohol in work hours, appropriate boundaries......

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • bob cat

    Oh and conflict of interests.....lest we forget

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • bob cat

    I wonder if we looked close enough we could add in appropriate tax paid?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.