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02 October 1998

Unions continue to fall foul of complex ballot laws
Legal actions taken against trade unions by employers are few are far between, the latest annual survey by Labour Research has found, with just nine such actions recorded since September 1997.

This relatively low figure compares with an average of around 20 cases a year in the mid 1980s when the Conservative's anti-trade union laws were first introduced.

However the survey, published today in the October issue of Labour Research, reveals that the complex rules on ballots for industrial action are continuing to prove a serious legal minefield for trade unions. All nine legal actions brought against unions in the last 12 months involved alleged breaches of the balloting law.

Labour Research has been monitoring legal action against unions since 1983. And this year's findings reinforce those of previous years - that alleged ballot irregularities are the single largest ground for an employer to seek an injunction against a union. Since 1983 alleged balloting irregularities have accounted for 45% of all the injunctions sought by employers.

The Fairness at Work white paper seeks views on, among other things, simplifying the law and the Code of Practice on industrial action ballots. The findings of this Labour Research survey give weight to the trade union belief that the balloting rules are too complex, that it is too easy for a union acting in good faith to unwittingly fall foul of the law and that the law is in urgent need of reform.

Notes to editors

Full details of the latest annual survey on legal actions brought by employers against trade unions are published in the October 1998 issue of Labour Research. The price of a single copy is ?2.70 (?3 including postage).
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 86 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 54 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For more details contact Sonia McKay on 0171 902 9827.

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