Is there a right to strike in the UK?
There is no right to strike under UK law. However, under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of their interests. This right can be restricted by law, but only so far as is necessary in a democratic society, e.g. for the protection of security or public safety, or the prevention of crime. Violent protest is not protected.
Industrial action, including strike action, is legal and protected if it follows the rules laid down in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which should be interpreted in line with Article 11 ECHR. The rules for legal industrial action include requiring the balloting of trade union members before action, and the reasonable notification of both the ballot and industrial action to employers.
The law protects workers who are peacefully protesting, communicating or persuading people to abstain from working at or near their workplace, subject to certain limits such as limits on the numbers of pickets. The Act does not allow for employees to be ‘compelled’ to work by a court order. ‘Secondary’ or ‘sympathy’ strikes (i.e. striking against employer A in sympathy with a group working for employer B) is not protected under UK law. Any violence, intimidation or harm to persons or property is also not protected.
The 1992 Act applies across England, Wales and Scotland and partially in Northern Ireland. The Act was intended to define and govern the role of trade unions, including collective bargaining (i.e. the negotiation of conditions of employment by a group of employees) and industrial action. It also outlines rights of trade union members, including the right not to be denied access to the courts, not to be unjustifiably disciplined, and to terminate membership of a union.