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How to start Industrial action

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If you’re considering industrial action at work, there are a few options open to you. Industrial action is when workers decide to either go on all out strike or take other action such as refusing to do overtime. The latter is known as ‘action short of a strike’.

Calling action

Industrial action is organised officially by trade union members when there is a dispute with employers that cannot be resolved through round-the-table negotiations. It can only happen if the majority of the union’s members vote in favour of industrial action through a ballot. The union must first decide which members affected by the dispute it wants to involve in the action.

All those entitled to vote – and the employer – must be notified of the results of the ballot.

Industrial action can then be called by the union representatives telling its members and the employer what form the action will take and when it will happen.

Your rights

As a trade union member, you have the right to vote before being asked to take part in industrial action. However, you don’t have to take part in any strikes or similar and the union can’t discipline you for a refusal to participate.

Holding a ballot

industrial actionProperly organised ballots have to follow a set process as determined by law.

These rules are set out by the Department for Work and Pensions and state that a ballot for industrial action must:

  • Be supervised by a qualified independent person or ‘scrutineer’ (often someone from an organisation like the Electoral Reform Society) appointed by the union if over 50 members are being balloted.
  • Be held before the union asks members to take or continue taking action.
  • Be open to all members the union wants to take action.
  • Take the form of a postal ballot, where members vote by marking a box on a voting paper and return it in a prepaid envelope.
  • Include information on what the ballot is about and where to post your vote.

Union members must then be informed as to how many people voted; the number of yes and no votes and spoiled papers, as soon as possible.

As well as being given the results straight away, employers are also entitled to at least one week’s notice of the start of the ballot.

Ballot questions and complaints

When you are balloted for industrial action, your voting paper must ask whether you want to take part in strike, action short of a strike, or both. Obviously members can only be called on to take action if a majority voted in favour of it.

You can take legal advice and apply to the courts if you feel your union hasn’t followed the rules in calling the industrial action.





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