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the future of public sector strikes

10 July 2014

The legitimacy of today’s strike by public sector workers has been called into question – in the teaching profession only around 10% of the total workforce voted in favour of the strikes in 2012.

Currently a strike can take place where it is supported by a simple majority of members who vote, regardless of turnout and there is no need for a fresh ballot for ‘discontinuous action’. The Prime Minister has criticised these strikes and pledged to change this legislation.

Options being considered include setting turnout thresholds and time-limiting ballots. With around 3,000 schools closed in England and Wales, there is inevitable disruption to education, businesses and individuals, with parents taking time off work or paying for childcare.

Questioning the legitimacy of the ballot distracts from the purpose of the strike and reduces public sympathy. Tighter rules on ballots, to show greater and more recent support by union members, may well therefore reduce the number of strikes, but it may actually increase their effectiveness too.

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