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Cameron rejects calls for change to UK strike laws

PRIME Minister David Cameron has vetoed business leaders’ demand to change strike laws as the prospect of industrial strife looms behind planned public sector spending cuts.

The CBI, Britain’s most prominent business lobbyist, asked the government to raise the bar for walk-out approvals to 40 per cent of the balloted workforce, not a simple majority among those who exercise their vote.

The civil service strike in March went ahead on the basis of a 30 per cent turnout, while last June’s tube strikes were supported by 38 per cent of all the union’s members. In cases such as these, a small number of “particularly active” union members swung the vote, the CBI said.

Deputy director-general John Cridland said: “Strikes cause misery. They prevent ordinary people going about their daily lives… [and they] also cost the economy dearly and undermine our efforts to help rebuild the economy. That is why we believe the bar needs to be raised.”

But Cameron’s official spokesman said there were no plans to change strike legislation. His words were greeted with relief by union bosses, who said tweaks to voting thresholds would breach human rights laws.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said the number of days lost to walk-outs in Britain was low compared with numbers in other countries. He added: “Any further restrictions would be extremely unfair and almost certainly breach the UK’s international human rights obligations. The CBI seems to think human rights stop at the workplace door.”

Strikes by British Airways cabin workers, organised by Unite, have brought the perils of industrial action into sharp focus in recent weeks as the firm has haemorrhaged business.