* University of Bristol Law School, email: Michael.Ford@bristol.ac.uk and Tonia.Novitz@bristol.ac.uk. We are grateful to Shae McCrystal and other participants in the ‘Comparative Strike Ballots workshop’ hosted by the Labour Law and Relations Group at Sydney Law School in August 2015; to members of the Institute of Employment Rights who have also commented on the Bill; to Richard Arthur (at Thompsons) for information and advice; and European colleagues who are assisting us in a comparative European project on aspects of the legislation. All errors and omissions are our own.
In July 2015, a Trade Union Bill was introduced by the incoming Conservative Government which seeks to place significant restrictions on UK trade union activity, probably in anticipation of deep budgetary cuts affecting the public sector which are likely to generate protest. The assertion has been made that this legislative proposal is fair and balanced. We contest that claim with reference to the likely effect of the measures on industrial action, pickets and protests. The consultative process was incomplete and the substantive provisions unfairly target union-organised strikes and protests. The proposals are open to challenge on grounds of insufficient justification, impracticability of compliance and violation of fundamental civil liberties. They entail probable breach of UK obligations in respect of International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards and rights arising under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and European Social Charter (ESC). By further restricting the scope of lawful industrial action and pickets, the proposed legislation risks provoking other kinds of protest.