UK considering re-writing union laws-report

LONDON, (Reuters) – Britain’s government could  change trade union laws to curb workers’ ability to strike, a  minister was quoted in the Daily Telegraph newspaper as saying  today, days before the biggest walk-out in decades is due  to take place.
Talks between public sector unions and the Conservative-led  coalition government over pension reform appear to have stalled  and the strike on Nov. 30 involving about two million state  workers looks set to go ahead.
The newspaper said Cabinet minister Francis Maude, who has  been involved in the talks, wanted the coalition to consult on a  new legal timeframe on a strike vote mandate.
The paper said mandate rules allow a union to repeat strike  action until the dispute ends as long as industrial action  occurs within 28 days of securing an initial “yes” vote.
Maude was quoted as saying that this gave unions a “perverse  incentive” to strike. The coalition will look at extending the  timeframe to about three months to give more time for a dispute  to be resolved before a walk-out is necessary, the paper said  without quoting Maude directly.
To hold more strikes after that limit, a union would have to  hold a new ballot of members.
“There is a case for change,” he was quoted as saying.  “We’ll want to look at this carefully.”
The Conservatives have also looked at changing turnout  rules, putting in place a minimum threshold for a strike.
“It is clearly an option,” he said.
“If very disruptive strike action is carried out on the  basis of these weak ballots, weak turnouts, the case for reform  gets stronger.”
The government, which wants public sector workers to  contribute more, retire later and receive pensions based on  average earnings rather than final salaries, made a revised  offer at the beginning of the month.
It was not accepted by the unions.
The government says public sector pension reform is  necessary because people are living longer.
“We need to move quickly,” Maude was quoted as saying.
“We have to legislate to put in place the new schemes. We  will legislate whether we have a deal or not.”

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