Draft Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers

– in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:15 pm on 14 October 2002.

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Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party 12:15, 14 October 2002

I beg to move

That the Department for Employment and Learning’s draft Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers be approved.[Interruption].

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

The draft code was laid before the Assembly on 24 September 2002 and is subject to affirmative resolution. On approval by the Assembly the draft code becomes the code, and the Department will make an Order bringing it into effect on the appointed day.

The draft code is issued under article 95 of the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, which gives the Department power, subject to Assembly approval, to issue codes for the purpose of improving industrial relations. The draft code takes account of the current legislative provisions on industrial action ballots and notice to employers, including those contained in the Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999. It is intended as a practical instrument to assist a range of individuals and organisations, including employers, trade unions and employees, to regulate and improve industrial relations. It also provides guidance on statutory rights.

The draft code is relevant to any union involved in industrial action ballots, to employers who are affected by them and to union members who may be asked to vote. The draft code seeks to ensure that appropriate action is taken to resolve disputes before industrial action. It sets out details of best practice on whether a ballot is appropriate, how to prepare for a ballot, the specific process and steps to be followed when holding a ballot, and what action should be taken following a ballot. It provides helpful summaries of what the current legislation requires by way of consultation by the employer and the unions.

The draft code does not impose legal obligations, and failure to observe it does not render anyone liable to proceedings. However, it may be admissible in evidence before an industrial tribunal or the industrial court, if it is deemed to be relevant. Full consultation has taken place in Northern Ireland on the content of the draft code. I commend the draft code to the Assembly.

(Madam Deputy Speaker [Ms Morrice] in the Chair).

Photo of Esmond Birnie Esmond Birnie UUP

I support the motion. The Committee considered the code of practice at its meeting on 3 October 2002 and supports it. It has been well described by the Minister. It seems to be based on a similar code in Great Britain, produced by the Department of Trade and Industry. Therefore the production of the code maintains parity with Great Britain. I urge the House to support the motion.

Photo of Carmel Hanna Carmel Hanna Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Chairperson for his remarks. The draft code sets out fair and reasonable procedures for parties to adopt when a ballot is to be held. It balances the duties of employers and trade unions, with the emphasis on responsible behaviour.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved:

That the Department for Employment and Learning’s draft Code of Practice on Industrial Action Ballots and Notice to Employers be approved.