Level of industrial action at record low

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Number of employees involved in strikes declines by more than 650,000 in a year, but disputes lasting more than a day increase

Official figures suggest just 81,000 people in the UK were involved in labour disputes last year, a dramatic year-on-year decline that marks the lowest level of industrial action on record.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) numbers contrasted with the 733,000 people who were involved in dispute-related stoppages in 2014, when many public sector workers staged high-profile walkouts.

The figures are part of a significant, decades-long downward trend in the scale of strike action, which could accelerate following the enactment of the Trade Union Act, which places further restrictions on how strikes can be called.

More than 4.6 million people stopped work at some point in 1979, which began with the so-called ‘winter of discontent’. As recently as 2011, more than 1.5 million workers were involved in stoppages, many related to the public sector pensions dispute.

However, the proportion of disputes lasting for more than one day was 70 per cent in 2015, up from 54 per cent in 2014 and 37 per cent in 2013. More than seven in 10 days lost to industrial action across the UK in 2015 were down to disputes over pay. Rows over redundancy accounted for another two in 10 days.

Overall, just 170,000 working days were lost to strikes in 2015, down from 788,000 in the previous year and almost 30 million days in 1979.

ONS labour market statistician Nick Palmer said: “The 2015 total [for working days lost] was the second lowest since records began, with only 2005 lower. The main reason that 2014 had a higher figure than last year was that it saw a number of large-scale public sector strikes that were not repeated in 2015. In all, 81,000 workers went on strike in 2015, the lowest figure since records began in 1893.”

Northern Ireland had the highest disruption rate in 2015, with 21 days lost per 1,000 employees. London lost 15 days per 1,000 people.

The transport and storage sector had the highest proportion of days lost, at 47 per 1,000 workers. Public administration, defence and compulsory social security was the lowest, at 20 days per 1,000 workers.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These figures show that going on strike is always a last resort when your employer won’t negotiate and won’t compromise. Strikes are far less common these days and tend to be short.

“Good industrial relations depend on fair wages and decent rights at work. The new prime minister has spoken about raising wages – now it’s time to live up to that promise.”

The Trade Union Act came into force this year to tighten the criteria needed to hold a strike. Among the measures introduced, industrial action can now only be legally called when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50 per cent.

A Department for Business spokesman said: “People have the right to know that the services on which they and their families rely will not be disrupted at short notice by strikes supported by a small proportion of union members. The Trade Union Act means the rights of the public to go about their lives are fairly balanced with members’ ability to strike.”

Industrial action is not completely in the past, however. Southern railway services are set to be affected next week as RMT members plan a five-day strike, which is set to be the worst disruption yet, while a group of shop fitters were due to begin a three-day walkout today in Newcastle.

Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/08/04/level-of-industrial-action-at-record-low.aspx

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