Understanding Industrial Action

Industrial strike action has become topical with BA pilots threatening summer strikes over pay and autumn strikes planned in the Further Education (FE) sector. Dr John McMullen, Partner in Stone King’s Employment Team, outlines the details.

British Airways recently lost an appeal aimed at halting planned strike action by its pilots. The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) voted in favour of industrial action, after negotiations failed to resolve a dispute relating to a joint pay claim. An injunction to prevent the strike was sought by the airline, and was overturned in the High Court. An appeal of this decision was rejected by the Court of Appeal on Wednesday 31 July 2019. The Court accepted BALPA’s argument that the strict requirements for the lawful organisation of industrial action had been met. Pilots can now name dates for a potential strike, which would likely fall during the busiest months for holidays.

FE Sector – Autumn strikes ahead

The BA appeal news comes shortly after University and College Union (UCU) announced 15 days of planned strike action at Nottingham College in September and October 2019, after staff were threatened with dismissal if they did not accept new terms and conditions. Staff at the college walked out for a one-day strike on Monday 1 July and warned then that if the college did not come back to the table prepared to seriously negotiate, then further action would follow. The further strike action will start with a one day walkout on Wednesday 11 September, escalating to strikes of two, three, four and five days in subsequent weeks.

Similar strike action took place at Bradford College for 3 days in early July, against plans from the college to axe 131 jobs to save money.

Dr John McMullen, says: “Industrial action, at first glance is unlawful, since the employees involved will breach their contracts of employment and any trade union calling the strike will also commit the tort of inducing a breach of contract. However, if there is a genuine "trade dispute" and the industrial action is organised in accordance with the strict rules set out in legislation, the industrial action will be immune from legal action.”

Dr McMullen outlines the law around industrial action here.


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