Putting Partnership into Practice

22 Feb 2017

Last year, the UK government introduced legislation which attempted to further hamper and constrain trade unions. The Trade Union Act 2016 became law on 4 May, 2016. However, thanks to some very effective campaigning and lobbying by PCS and other trade unions, it is a diluted version of what had originally been proposed. Nevertheless, it still represents the most serious attack on unions witnessed in a generation.

It introduced several new measures including:

  • Revised industrial action rules, including statutory thresholds for ballots
  • Further restrictions on picketing
  • Detrimental changes to union facility time and check-off arrangements within the public sector
  • Enhanced powers for the Certification Officer.

In January of this year, a bill was introduced in the Senedd which seeks to dis-apply parts of the Trade Union Act in relation to those public services for which responsibility has been devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. If the bill is passed, it will reflect the very different way in which industrial relations are viewed and conducted here in Wales.

Ahead of the bill’s introduction, Mark Drakeford (cabinet secretary for finance and local government) said: “We have always said that the Trade Union Act was unnecessary and would lead to more confrontational relationships between employers and workers; undermining rather than supporting public services and the economy.

Social partnership is founded on respect for the work of trade unions and the rights of their members. In Wales, employers and the trade union movement work together constructively. We are not prepared to let the Trade Union Act undermine the approach we have built on this side of the border.

Not only is the act damaging and divisive but it interferes with devolved policy and the powers held by the National Assembly for Wales.

Key sections on ballot thresholds, facility time and check-off would make the delivery of devolved public services in Wales more difficult, changing the balance of the relationship between employers and unions.

This bill seeks to ensure the damaging provisions of the Act do not apply to public services in Wales.

In welcoming the move, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “This is a welcome move and one which we fully support in the hope that it provides meaningful protection from this vindictive and needless Tory legislation. If the UK government was serious about helping the many rather than the privileged few, it would strengthen trade unions not seek to undermine them.“

The bill has been remitted to the equality, local government and communities committee and is currently at stage 1 of its journey through the National Assembly for Wales.

Further information is available here:


We will keep members updated on the bill’s progress.

Group vice president  

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