A number of our clients have recently received notices of strike action on 30 November 2011 from UNISON in relation to proposed changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme.
It appears however from the papers we have seen that UNISON’s endorsement of this strike may be unlawful on the grounds that it has failed to comply with the strict procedural requirements set out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (the Act).
Trade unions must comply with key notification requirements to the employers of any employees who are entitled to vote in the ballot on industrial action. In summary, under the provisions of the Act the trade union must:
– Serve the employer with notice of the ballot at least 7 days before the ballot takes place
– Provide the employer with a copy of the ballot papers at least 3 days before the ballot takes place
– Announce the results of the ballot to the employer as soon as reasonably practicable after the ballot has taken place and
– Serve the employer with notice of industrial action at least 7 days before the intended start of the action.
To the extent that a trade union has not complied with each of these requirements, its endorsement of any subsequent industrial action would be unlawful. In such circumstances employers may be entitled to obtain an injunction to prevent the action from taking place and/or claim damages. Employers may also be entitled to take disciplinary action against employees who participate in the strike without authorisation.
In preparing for the upcoming industrial action on 30 November 2011 in the cases with which we have been involved, UNISON seems to have been failing to announce the results of the ballot to employers prior to serving them with notice of industrial action, thus rendering it in breach of the legal notification requirements. We have been advising employers in receipt of these notices on how to effectively deal with the planned unlawful strike action while maintaining sensitivity and preserving employee relations.
If you will be affected by planned industrial action on 30 November and would like advice please contact Amanda Harvey or Nicola Philp or your usual contact in the employment team.