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.