Strike action – when employment relationships fail


By Curtis Brown

Trade union members, including teachers and other civil servants, around the UK boycotted their jobs on 30 June en masse against the coalition government because of the proposed changes to their pensions.

The Government, led by Prime Minister David Cameron, plan to raise the age of retirement and increase contributions to pensions during a period of increased living costs and bank bail-outs.

Four trade unions committed 750,000 civil servants to the mammoth strike with major disruption caused to border control in airports, ports, international rail terminals, job centres, tax offices, law courts, driving-test centres and schools.

These high-energy pickets underline just how low employment relationships can fall and highlight the intricate laws defining the boundaries of legitimate requests from employers and fair protests by workers.

It is understandable that Caven has seen an increase in traffic to our employment solicitors from employers and employees, despite public-sector unions being the first port of call for employment disputes.

With teachers striking and ushering in the closure of thousands of schools for the day, many parents were also compelled to stay at home with their children. This can put more strain on an employment relationship.

However in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, employees can expect a ‘reasonable amount’ of unpaid time-off for some of those unexpected disruptions with dependants. Employers may also suggest working from home, allowing them to use holiday, agree to pay them on the condition they make up the lost time by working unpaid overtime or reduce a parent's pay. Acas, the employment body can help clarify these and other universal employment rules, or recommend you to see an employment solicitor.

As a case handler working with trade union members, many still have find the advice of a solicitor invaluable, even if it means confirming the law with a specialist. Finding out whether strike action is legal is often argued in the media and taken as fact. But this is not the last word and industrial strikes boil-down to votes, dialogue and legislation.

If you feel you have any questions regarding strikes and employment law or are not sure of your rights, Caven can put you in touch with a specialist employment law solicitor. Please call08001 221 2299 or fill out the web-form opposite.

Curtis Brown is one of Caven’s most experienced and knowledgeable telephone advisors.

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