Wales politics

Bill to drop strike rules backed by assembly committee

Trade union Image copyright Reuters

Rules making it harder for strike action in public services could be changed in Wales after a cross-party group of AMs backed a new law.

The bill aims to revoke parts of the UK government's 2016 Trade Union Act.

It would mean current restrictions on industrial action in the NHS, the fire service, schools and other devolved services in Wales would change.

UK ministers say industrial relations are a matter for Westminster.

A key element of the UK government's law is to only allow strikes backed by 40% of a union's members in a ballot.

But members of the Welsh Assembly's Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee agreed the new legislation was needed to maintain Wales' "social-partnership" approach.

In March, Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford said it would be a "democratic outrage" if ministers in London tried to block the Welsh Trade Union Bill.

The Labour Welsh Government argues UK ministers should not impose restrictions on union activity in Wales in devolved services, such as the NHS and schools.

The committee report was not supported by one of its eight members as Conservative AM Janet Finch-Saunders did not agree with its conclusions.

Image caption John Griffiths said a junior doctors strike in England had been successfully averted in Wales.

Committee chair John Griffiths said: "While the partnership approach is not without its tensions and difficulties, it seems to be serving Wales well.

"Industrial action across the UK is at its lowest for years and strikes have been less prevalent in Wales than in England in recent years."

He added: "It is clear to us that the success of the social partnership is dependent on equality between partners and that the relevant provisions in the 2016 act are likely, to varying degrees, to affect this.

"In view of the above, we support the general principles of the bill and agree that it is needed to disapply the relevant provisions of the 2016 act."

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has said the Wales Act 2017, which received Royal Assent in January, "puts beyond doubt that this policy area is not devolved".

UK ministers, he said, would "act at the earliest opportunity" to "protect the interest of taxpayers and our public services in Wales".

More on this story