All workers have the right to join a union. It is illegal for an employer to prevent you from joining a union, and also for an employer to discriminate against you for being a member of a union. This also applies to non-unionised workers.
If you are an employee, dismissal due to union membership is automatically unfair dismissal. If you do not have employee status (e.g. if you are an agency worker), this is not unfair dismissal although you can make a legal claim for detriment if dismissed in this way.
Industrial action is defined as any action committed by an employee or employer that means your contract is not fully operative. This could include:
- Overtime Bans.
However, in some cases, these breaches of contract are lawful. A strike, for example, is legal if:
- The action is work-related.
- The employer has been given notice.
- A secret postal ballot has taken place and the majority of voters voted in favour of a strike.
Thus actions such as wildcat strikes and solidarity strikes are technically illegal. If this is the case, you are no longer protected by the law and your contract. However, this does not mean that you will be automatically dismissed, since this is up to the discretion of your employer. There have been many instances of wildcat strikes being effective and getting changes made very fast. This is a tactical decision that only you and your fellow workers can make.
For ‘legal’ strikes, there is a twelve-week threshold beyond which, the law has made it difficult to continue striking. You have been unfairly dismissed if:
- You have been on strike for twelve weeks or less.
- The strike is continuing but you have stopped striking by twelve weeks.
- You have been on strike for over twelve weeks and your employer has not made a ‘reasonable’ effort to settle the dispute.
While on strike, your employer is not obliged to pay you.