Yesterday evening, at the first CIPD employment law update since the referendum, Darren Newman pointed out that the decision to leave the EU has been taken on the basis of a vote that wouldn’t pass the threshold of the new trade union laws. 52 percent of a 72 percent turnout only gives you 37.4 percent, well short of the 40 percent needed for any form of industrial action in important public services to be legal. As he said on his blog:
[A]s far as this Government is concerned, a ballot where 52% support strike action on a turnout 72% would not give sufficient democratic legitimacy to justify train drivers introducing a work to rule or teachers holding a one-day strike. However we are about to put our economy, security and place in the world in jeopardy to give effect to a referendum where, on a 72% turnout, just 52% voted to leave.
And whose voice was loudest in demanding this new law? Why Boris Johnson of course. Strikes “called on the basis of a very small proportion of the relevant workforce” are “unfair” and “put a terrific psychological burden on people who don’t want to take strike action,” he raged. Legislation should be the ‘Day one‘ priority of a new Tory government, he demanded.
Allister Heath also thinks it’s a good thing:
The proposed reform to strike laws would make it much harder for unions to disrupt essential services and to hold the public to ransom. Under Tory plans, unions seeking to call a strike in health, education, fire and transport would need to convince 40 per cent of the workforce to turn out, as well as convince a majority of those who actually vote. This would prevent most strikes. All of this makes a lot of sense.
What you can’t have is a very militant minority inflicting maximum damage in vital public service infrastructure on the hard-working majority, when it’s got such little support.
Well we couldn’t have that could we? Inflicting huge costs, massive inconvenience and psychological trauma on the say-so of less that 40 percent of those entitled to vote.
Except that is exactly what has just happened. The Brexit vote has already had a far greater impact than any strike. It’s ramifications will last for years. Even the most optimistic scenario puts the cost to the public sector at an extra £16 billion a year, even allowing for not having to pay EU contributions. The eventual cost to the economy will be huge.
Then there’s the impact on Britain’s standing in the world. Whatever happens after this our power and influence will almost certainly be diminished. And if Boris is worried about the psychological impact of strikes, what the hell does he think things like this are likely to do?
Under the new trade union law, enthusiastically promoted by some of Brexit’s cheerleaders, 37.4 percent wouldn’t be enough for an overtime ban or a work-to-rule, yet it is enough to wreck the economy, destroy the country’s standing in the world and throw 40 years of government policy into the dustbin of history.
It’s no wonder the rest world thinks we have taken leave of our senses.