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Employers back government’s minimum threshold on strike ballots proposal

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Three quarters of employers back coalition government proposals to introduce a minimum threshold on strike ballots over fears that increased levels of industrial action following swingeing budget cuts could stifle the UK’s economic recovery.

These are the findings of a study among 507 senior UK decision makers across the public and private sector undertaken by YouGovStone on behalf of law firm DLA Piper.

The research revealed that 88% of respondents expect to see growing level of industrial unrest over the coming months, with two thirds worried that it could damage economic growth. Some 29% of large private companies with turnover in excess of £250m believed that strike action could also pose a significant threat to their business.

As a result, just over half said they would favour government intervention to prevent industrial action in the transport and communications sectors (58% in the private sector and 37% in the public sector respectively).

On the other hand, only 26% would back the Private Members’ Bill introduced by Labour MP John McDonnell to extend the circumstances under which unions become immune to legal action (24% in the private sector and 33% in the public sector respectively).

David Bradley, a partner and group head of employment, pensions and benefits for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at DLA Piper, said: "The study’s findings provide strong encouragement for the government from business leaders to tighten the laws around strike action. Careful consideration will be required as trade unions already consider existing laws as punitive and disproportionate."

As a result, any further tightening of the law would bring "a greater challenge" at the European level due to human rights legislation, he added.

Given the current climate, the research also indicated, unsurprisingly, that employee relations issues was considered the most important staff issue for management to address (39%). This was followed by employee commitment (23%), rewards/compensation/benefits (19%) and absence management (15%).

The study likewise showed that 47% of industrial disputes related to pay and benefits and 13% to pensions.

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