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Industrial action (strikes)

What is industrial action?

Industrial action is when workers:

  • go on strike
  • take other action, like refusing to do overtime (known as ‘action short of a strike’)

A trade union can only call for industrial action if a majority of its members involved support it in a properly organised postal vote - called a ‘ballot’.

Industrial action can lead to temporary closures, reduced services and disruption to organisations, customers and the public. Services usually continue but are often reduced to minimum service.

What is a picket line?

A picket line is where workers and union reps stand outside a workplace to tell other people why they are striking. Pickets may also ask people not to:

  • do some of their usual work
  • go into work

It’s a criminal offence for pickets to:

  • use threatening or abusive behaviour to people walking past or crossing the picket line
  • block people or vehicles trying to get into the workplace which is on strike (called ‘causing an obstruction’ by police)
  • cause or threaten to cause a ‘breach of the peace’
  • try to block roads near the picket line (called ‘causing an obstruction to the public highway’)
  • try to stop the police who are outside the workplace from doing their job

What does it mean for me?

Consequences of industrial action may include:

  • disruption to essential services, particularly transport, health and education
  • disruption to business (lost working hours)
  • possible public order challenges (with associated pressure on policing)
  • economic damage (particularly for transport sector industrial action)

You can read more about industrial action and strikes on the GOV.UK website.

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