Although plans for strike action during the Olympics are not specifically in place, Unite has stated that it would not rule action out during London 2012.
Christopher Mordue, partner in the employment group at international law firm Pinsent Masons comments: “This is something of a shot across the bows from Unite following the relative quiet after the strikes on 30th November last year. In the months since then, the heat seems to have gone out of that particular dispute but the Olympics provide the opportunity to cause real disruption and the unions are seizing on that. Although Unite hasn’t indicated any definite plans, this is a reminder that there is a lot of scope for dispute between Government and unions in the public sector. RMT has also indicated that it could ballot for strike action during the games in reaction to the package tube workers have been offered for the period. Combined, the two unions are using this event as an opportunity to remind the Government that the threat of disruptive disputes has not gone away.
What this may well do is revive the debate about whether strike rules should be amended to make it harder for unions to take strike action but that’s not an easy thing for Government to put in motion and there certainly isn’t time for this to happen before London 2012. The government was thinking about changing the balloting rules whereby not only would 50 percent of those voting need to vote for strike action, but also 50 percent of the relevant constituency would need to vote. Other changes mooted were to change the ballot notices whereby the notice sets out the ground for the trade dispute. Ultimately though, even with these changes, strikes may be voted through. The more significant issue with McCluskey’s comment is that any future action will not carry any public support, thereby allowing the government greater scope to win a PR battle with the unions. What remains to be seen is if this is just sabre rattling on the part of the unions or if it will turn into a reality. The government must be considering contingency plans around the Olympics if RMT or UNITE play hard ball. It would be interesting to know what they may be.”