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Industrial action – are specific dates required?

With rail strikes taking place across England this week, we look at the case of Thomas Cook Airlines Ltd v British Airline Pilots Association which considered what information is required to be specified on voting papers for industrial action.

Background

The British Airline Pilots Association (“BAPA”) balloted employees of Thomas Cook to take strike action. The voting paper stated:

It is proposed to take discontinuous industrial action in the form of strike action on dates to be announced over the period from 8th September 2017 to 18th February 2018.”

Section 229(2D) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (“TULRCA”), which was introduced under the new Trade Union Act 2016, states that a voting paper must indicate the period or periods within which the industrial action is expected to take place.

Thomas Cook argued that the voting paper did not contain enough information and sought an interim injunction from the High Court to prevent the strike action on the basis that the voting paper did not comply with section 229(2D) of TULRCA.

Decision

The High Court held that the recently added section 229(2D) does not require a trade union to identify specific dates on which industrial action is to be taken. It would not be practical for a trade union to specify a precise date and it is sufficient that a period of time in which the industrial action may take place is sufficient to meet legal requirements.

Comment

The decision is not particularly helpful for employers who can face significant disruption during periods of industrial action. Further information on the new rules on industrial action under the Trade Union Act 2016, including notification requirements for industrial action following a ballot, can be found here.

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