Do we need stronger restrictions on public sector strikes?

Mark Wallace, executive editor of ConservativeHome, says Yes.

Today’s strike is a farce. The National Union of Teachers walk-out, which is at the heart of the action, is based on a ballot which took place two years ago and secured only the majority support of a tiny turnout.

That flimsy, moth-eaten mandate will be used to bring disruption and misery to millions. It’s hard to think of a better example of why the laws on public sector strikes require reform. Rolling mandates, where one strike ballot can be used to justify strikes for years afterwards, must be abolished.

Furthermore, a public sector strike should only be valid if a real majority of union members vote for it – not a tiny, militant minority winning a ballot in which few people took part. Most trade union members don’t join up to strike.

They join for productive representation, training and, particularly in the case of teachers, legal insurance. Those pragmatic voices far outnumber the striking radicals – we need reform to ensure they are heard.

Ralph Scott, head of editorial at Demos, says No.

Strikes, especially when they lead to closures of schools, are frustrating and inconvenient for everyone. But action by unions is one of the ways employees can make their voice heard in the workplace, and shouldn’t be restricted.

The Conservative Party has said it is considering a ballot threshold as a manifesto commitment, with a figure of 50 per cent having previously been floated by the mayor of London.

But if you think about this for a second, it’s clear this could lead to the perverse situation of an abstention carrying more power than a vote against action. Say a workplace of 200 people is balloted and only 99 people vote in favour - the vote would be ineligible. But if 51 vote for and 50 against, the strike has more legitimacy in Boris’s view.

Strikes are frustrating, but the answer is for both sides to negotiate a way forward and encourage voting reform in union elections, not to legislate them out of existence.